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Sidhu gets jail & time to appeal
- CELEBS IN THE DOCK: Suspended sentence for one, sign drive for another

Chandigarh, Dec. 6: For once there were no Sidhuisms, only a nail-biting finish that was not the best Navjyot Singh Sidhu had been hoping for but neither the worst that he was afraid of.

The former cricketer was today handed a three-year rigorous imprisonment term for causing the death of a person whom he beat up after a parking dispute in 1988.

But he won’t go to jail immediately, because the Punjab and Haryana High Court has suspended the sentence till January 31 to give him time to appeal in the Supreme Court.

“I have full respect for the judiciary and will not comment on the verdict,” Sidhu said, disappointing anyone waiting to hear his next wisecrack. He was back in form later.

Tension written large on his face, Sidhu had arrived in court flanked by BJP leaders, and headed straight for room No. 38. Inside the jam-packed room, he nibbled his fingers as he spoke to BJP colleague and lawyer Arun Jaitley, turned his face up at the ceiling, eyes closed, and kept shuffling in his second-row chair.

When the arguments on the quantum of sentence began, Sidhu took out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat on his forehead. It did not find its way back into his pocket.

The former cricketer, now more popular as TV commentator, was last week convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for causing the death of Gurnam Singh, 65, in Patiala. The maximum punishment for the offence is 10 years in prison and the minimum, a fine.

As soon as the sentence was announced, he buried his face in his hands. Sidhu had said he was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

He came out to a crowd of slogan-shouting supporters and left for former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s house. “I thank the people of the country who have stood by me. I have become morally strong as I have never interfered nor used any influence to help my case,” Sidhu said. “What more could one ask for'” he said of the support.

The family of the victim will seek a harsher sentence in the Supreme Court. “We have waited for 18 years for this day. We will seek maximum punishment,” a relative said.

If the Supreme Court upholds the conviction and the sentence, Sidhu will be barred from contesting an election for six years after his release from prison.

Sidhu has also been fined Rs 1 lakh. The money will be given to 70-year-old Vimaljit Kaur, the widow of victim Gurnam Singh.

Co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu was given the same sentence.

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