The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Push & prayer for Sidhu
- Victim’s kin allege pressure

Chandigarh, Dec. 2: Family members of Gurnam Singh, who died after being beaten up by Navjyot Singh Sidhu 18 years ago, claim they are under political pressure not to press for the maximum punishment for the former cricketer.

Punjab and Haryana High Court had yesterday convicted Sidhu, a BJP member, of causing Gurnam’s death in December 1988 after a quarrel over parking in Patiala.

The charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder carries a maximum jail term of 10 years. Prayers are being offered in gurdwaras across Punjab so that Sidhu, a popular TV commentator, gets a “lenient” sentence on December 6.

“We would like to seek more than 10 years’ imprisonment. The sentence should be an example for others not to pick fights over trifles on the streets. But we are facing political pressure,” a relative of Gurnam said on the condition of anonymity.

The pressure is being applied allegedly by the Shiromani Akali Dal, a BJP ally in Punjab. Gurnam’s family has been extremely close to the Akalis for generations, taking part in their movements as far back as the 1920s. Shiromani Akali Dal leaders were treated to lunch by Gurnam’s relatives after a rally last month.

Akali leaders refused to either deny or confirm the family’s allegation today. But its leader Parkash Singh Badal publicly appreciated Sidhu’s “brave and principled decision” to resign from the Lok Sabha.

“By doing so, Sidhu has given a new light to the deteriorating moral values in public life,” Badal said.

Sidhu had sent his resignation yesterday but Speaker Somnath Chatterjee would not accept it because the letter referred to the court verdict and spoke of the MP’s commitment to truth and morality.

Sidhu today sent a second letter, which simply said: “I hereby tender my resignation as member of Parliament.”

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