The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to cricketer-turned-BJP politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been convicted and sentenced to three-year imprisonment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in an 18-year-old road rage case.
A Bench headed by Justice GP Mathur, which stayed the sentences awarded to Sidhu and co-convict Rupinder Singh Sandhu, ordered their release on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each with one surety in the like amount before the Paiala chief judicial magistrate.
Sidhu had on Thursday surrendered before the Patiala court as the Supreme Court rules required him to do so before his appeal against the High Court verdict could be taken up for hearing.
The Bench issued notices to the State of Punjab and the victim's family on Sidhu's plea for stay of conviction to enable him to contest the by-election to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat that fell vacant after he resigned following his conviction.
The issue of stay of conviction, crucial to his contesting the polls, would now be decided on January 17, the next date of hearing.
According to the latest ruling of the apex court, a person disqualified to contest election on account of his/her conviction and sentence of over two years, could contest polls only if the conviction and sentence both are stayed and not just the sentence.
On behalf of Sidhu, senior counsel Harish Salve submitted that the High Court order needed to be reversed as there was no evidence to convict his client.
Sidhu and Sandhu have filed Special Leave Petitions challenging the December 1 and December 6, 2006 orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on their conviction and sentence.
Convicted of causing death of an elderly man in Patiala in 1988, the duo sought setting aside of the High Court order that held them guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Another senior counsel, Arun Jaitley, submitted that filing of nomination papers would take place between January 18 and 25 and that Sidhu's plea for stay of conviction should be decided before that.
The trial court had in September 1999 acquitted him, but the High Court reversed that verdict and held him and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for the death of one Gurnam Singh in 1988. The High Court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on the convicts and money would go to the victim's widow.
In his petition, Sidhu has contended that the incident took place 18 years ago and the High Court should not have reversed the trial court's order of acquittal without there being any compelling circumstances.
Meanwhile, the court issued notices to Sidhu and Sandhu on an appeal filed by the victim's family for enhancing the sentence awarded to them.