Several Punjab Congress leaders on Thursday lambasted the AAP government for not releasing Navjot Singh Sidhu prematurely from the Patiala prison where he is serving a yearlong sentence in a 1988 road rage death case.
Former Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, former MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee, former MLAs Ashwani Sekhri, Navtej Singh Cheema, and Rajinder Singh gathered at Sidhu' house in Patiala in protest against the AAP government.
It was being expected by many that Sidhu could be among 50 prisoners who may be given special remission on the Republic Day.
However, when the day came there was no official word from the state government on Sidhu's release.
Addressing the media in Patiala on Thursday, Dullo said special remission is granted to certain prisoners with good behaviour by the states on January 26 and August 15.
He claimed that Sidhu's name figured in the list of 51 prisoners who were eligible for early release on the occasion of Republic Day
"But it seems that the 'Sidhuphobia', which the Punjab and central government have against Sidhu, has still not gone away," Dullo said.
"By not granting special remission to any prisoner, the government has not only wronged Sidhu but also the 50 other prisoners," said Dullo, as he termed the state government cowardly and irresponsible for failing to grant the former cricketer remission.
On the same issue, Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira tweeted: "Dear @BhagwantMann this is chicken hearted of you not releasing @sherryontopp today! You've not only displayed hatred & vindictive attitude to Navjot Sidhu but against all those prisoners who could have been released today due to Republic Day remittance (sic)."
After her hopes of seeing her husband free anytime soon dashed, Sidhu's wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, acerbically tweeted, "Navjot Singh Sidhu falls in the category of ferocious animal so the govt doesn't want to extend the 75th year of independence relief to him. You are all requested to stay away from him."
As it happened, Sidhu's supporters had made preparations to welcome him in Patiala anticipating his release.
On May 20 last year, Sidhu, the former Punjab Congress chief, was jailed following his surrender before a court in Patiala after he was sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment by the Supreme Court.
The top court had in its order said any sympathy in imposing an inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system and undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law.
Though SC had in May 2018 held Sidhu guilty of "voluntarily causing hurt" to the man, it had spared him a jail term and imposed on him a fine of Rs 1,000.