The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In whites but in jail
- Sidhu packs books, just in case

Chandigarh, Jan. 11: Navjot Singh Sidhu is back to wearing whites. But his jail stay could yet turn out a single day-night affair.

The former Test cricketer surrendered at a magistrate’s court here today and was sent to prison, where he can neither wear his bright suits nor show off his colourful language.

The 43-year-old could be in for three years — his sentence for causing the death of 65-year-old Gurnam Singh in a Patiala street brawl in 1988 — or for a single night.

Punjab and Haryana High Court had suspended the sentences it awarded Sidhu and fellow convict Rupinder Singh until January 31 to allow them to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.

The appeals, however, cannot be heard until the accused are in custody. Told that Sidhu had surrendered, the apex court decided to hear his appeal as well as his bail plea tomorrow. The cricketer-turned-TV commentator will be freed if the court stays his sentence.

Sidhu, who appeared in the magistrate’s court wearing a jacket was taken in a police jeep to Patiala Central Jail, where a freshly painted room with an attached toilet awaited him.

He seemed prepared for the long haul, carrying three bags stuffed with clothes and books. “I will read a lot,” he said.

If the Supreme Court upholds his conviction, Sidhu will for the next three years have to get up and go to bed at fixed hours and eat jail food.

“He will have to follow the rules and regulations that apply to other prisoners. He must wear the prison dress -- white kurta-pyjama and a white turban or cap,” a police officer said.

Sidhu and Rupinder had been acquitted in the case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by the Patiala sessions judge in 1999. But Gurnam’s family challenged the acquittal in the high court, which convicted them terming the lower court verdict “arbitrary and wrong”.

Gurnam’s family has filed a petition in the apex court, too, asking that Sidhu be charged with murder and awarded a longer sentence.

Sidhu, who resigned from the Lok Sabha as the BJP MP from Amritsar after his conviction, said he would accept whatever the Supreme Court decided tomorrow. But his subdued mood failed to dampen the eloquence.

“I have placed myself before the law and will accept whatever it ordains. I will abide by the directions of the court, not today but in the near future also, submitting myself today completely to the honourable court. Whatever the consequences, they are mine,” he said, getting the last word in, as usual.

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