Amid uncertainty over the premature release of Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu from the Patiala jail, it has been learnt that the Department of Jails, in its list of convicts eligible for special remission, had listed the former minister Sidhu on number three in Category Six prisoners.
The Category Six comprises prisoners who have completed two-third (66 per cent) of their total sentence period, without counting the period of general remission earned. Sidhu was among 33 convicts in this category. The list was to be put up before the state-level screening committee on December 16. Sources, however, said that the meeting of screening committee never took place. There were a total of 38 prisoners under four different categories, who were to be released as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to mark 75 years of Independence.
While neighbouring Haryana Tuesday announced special remission to convicts under different categories, there was no official word from Punjab government on any such remission even as Sidhu’s camp was upbeat and prepared for welcoming him stating he would walk free on January 26.
Hoardings describing Sidhu as “Punjab, Punjabi atey Punjabiyat da raakha’ (Saviour of Punjab, Punjabi, and Punjabiyat)” were put up at prominent locations along Ferozepur Road in Ludhiana.
His aides including former MLA Surjit Dhiman, Navtej Cheema, Lal Singh and his media adviser Surinder Dalla put up the hoardings. The leaders exhorted the masses to gather outside Patiala Central Jail on Republic Day at 11 to welcome Sidhu.
Dalla, however, said that even if Sidhu is not released on January 26, the “wait is still not very long”. “He has already completed eight months of his one-year imprisonment. Soon he will be back on the political scene and all his followers are eagerly awaiting his release. It’s just a matter of time now. So we have already started preparations for his welcome. Hoardings will be put across Ludhiana, Amritsar, and Patiala to welcome him back,” said Dalla.
Till evening, there were several calls made to mediapersons by his aides to claim that his release orders had reached the jail.
However, it is learnt that no communication regarding release of any prisoners reached Governor Banwarilal Purohit till Tuesday evening. Sources said that he would not be in town on Wednesday. He will be leaving for Jalandhar where he will unfurl tricolour on Thursday.
Sources said that the list that was prepared for the screening committee has a 20-year-old, who committed a crime at a young age and has completed 66 per cent of his sentence. The list also had two poor prisoners, who have completed their sentence but are still in jail due to non-payment of fine imposed on them. Also, it has two prisoners who have completed 50 per cent of their term. Sidhu is currently serving a one-year term in a 1988 road rage case. He was sent to jail on May 20, 2022, after he surrendered before a local court following a Supreme Court order. His wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu recently participated in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.