New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the response of real estate tycoons Sushil and Gopal Ansal on a plea by the Delhi Police seeking enhancement of punishment for allegedly tampering with evidence in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire which claimed 59 lives.
The police have challenged the trial court’s July 19, 2022 order releasing the Ansal brothers. Their punishment of around eight months was set off against the period they had already spent in jail.
Justice A J Bhambhani issued notice to the Ansals, former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and Ansal's former employee P P Batra and asked them to file replies to the police’s petition.
It also asked the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) to file the reply and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 13, when other related petitions have been listed.
The high court also condoned the Delhi Police for the delay in filing the revision petition.
A magisterial court had on November 8, 2021 awarded seven-year jail terms to the real estate barons and since then they were in prison.
The district judge had on July 19, 2022 modified the magisterial court's order on sentence and directed the release of the Ansals, former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and Ansal's then employee P P Batra against the period they had already served in jail since November 8, 2021.
It, however, had upheld the fine of Rs 2.25 crore each imposed by the magisterial court on Sushil and Gopal Ansal and Rs 3 lakh each on the other two.
While upholding the conviction of the Ansal brothers, the trial court had acquitted co-accused Anup Singh.
The case is related to alleged tampering with the evidence in the main fire tragedy case in which the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to a 2-year jail term by the Supreme Court.
The apex court, however, released them taking into account the prison time they had done on the condition that they pay a Rs 30 crore fine each to be used for building a trauma centre in the national capital.
As per the charge sheet, the documents tampered with included a police memo giving details of recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records pertaining to repair of transformer installed inside Uphaar, minutes of Managing Director's meetings, and four cheques.
Out of the six sets of documents a cheque for Rs 50 lakh, issued by Sushil Ansal to himself, and minutes of the MD's meetings, proved beyond doubt that the two brothers were handling the day-to-day affairs of the theatre at the relevant time, the charge sheet had said.
The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002 and a departmental enquiry was initiated against Dinesh Chand Sharma. He was suspended and terminated from services on June 25, 2004.
A massive fire had broken out at Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film 'Border' on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.