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1997 Uphaar cinema fire: HC asks police to reply to Gopal Ansal’s plea in evidence tampering case

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought response of the city police on a plea by real estate tycoon Gopal Ansal seeking to set aside his conviction and sentence for tampering with evidence in the case related to the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire that claimed 59 lives. Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav issued notice to the Delhi Police on the 74-year-old Gopal Ansal’s petition and listed the matter for further hearing on December 13.

Gopal Ansal has already completed his jail term in this case.

Besides him, 83-year-old Sushil Ansal and their former employee P P Batra had also approached the high court seeking to set aside their conviction and sentence.

The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) has filed a petition in the high court seeking enhancement of the punishment awarded to the convicts in the evidence tampering case.

Gopal Ansal, in his revision petition before the high court, contended that the findings arrived at by the magisterial court and sessions court are “totally perverse” and against the settled proposition of law and criminal jurisprudence.

“The conclusion drawn by the appellate court (sessions court) are totally misconstrued based on misinterpretation of law and facts,” it said, adding the order was liable to be set aside.

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 modified the magisterial court’s order on sentence and ordered the release of Sushil and Gopal Ansal, former court staff Dinesh Chandra Sharma and Ansal’s then employee Batra against their already undergone jail term since November 8, 2021.

It had imposed a fine of Rs 3 crore on Sushil and Gopal Ansal each and Rs 30,000 on Batra and Rs 60,000 on Sharma.

While upholding the conviction of the Ansal brothers, the trial court had acquitted one co-accused, Anup Singh, in the case.

The case is related to 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.

According to 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 of 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 Chandra Sharma. He was suspended and terminated from services on June 25, 2004.

The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997.

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