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[1997 Uphaar Cinema Fire] Delhi HC Ordered Police to Give Response to Gopal Ansal’s Petition in Evidence Tampering Case

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Delhi High Court Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 01 November 2022 at 18:34 IST

Real estate magnate Gopal Ansal filed a petition with the Delhi High Court asking for the city police to respond to his plea to have his conviction and imprisonment for tampering with evidence in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire, which killed 59 lives, overturned.

Regarding the 74-year-old Gopal Ansal’s appeal, Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav sent notice on the Delhi Police and set a further hearing for December 13 in the case.

In this case, Gopal Ansal’s sentence to prison is already complete.

Along with him, Sushil Ansal, and P P Batra, a former employee of theirs, had also petitioned the high court to overturn their conviction and imprisonment.

The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) has petitioned the high court to enhance the punishment meted out to those found guilty in the instance of tampering with evidence.

In his revision appeal to the high court, Gopal Ansal argued that the conclusions reached by the sessions court and magisterial court were “completely twisted” and went against the accepted legal theory and criminal jurisprudence.

The court while setting aside the order, also added that, “The conclusion drawn by the appellate court (sessions court) are totally misconstrued based on misinterpretation of law and facts,”

The real estate entrepreneurs were sentenced to seven years in prison by a magisterial court on November 8, 2021, and they have been there ever since.

On July 19, the District Judge amended the sentence imposed by the magisterial court and ordered the release of Sushil and Gopal Ansal, former court employee Dinesh Chandra Sharma, and Ansal’s then-employee Batra in exchange for the already served jail sentence, which began on November 8, 2021.

Sushil and Gopal Ansal each received a sentence of Rs 3 crore, while Batra and Sharma received fines of Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000, respectively.

The trial court had cleared one co-accused, Anup Singh, in the case, but upheld the conviction of the Ansal brothers

The main fire tragedy case, in which the Ansals were found guilty and given a 2-year prison sentence by the Supreme Court, involved evidence tampering.

On the condition that they each pay a fine of Rs 30 crore, which would be used to construct a trauma centre in the national capital, the apex court released them, taking into account the time they had already served in prison.

A police memo documenting recoveries soon after the incident, records from the Delhi Fire Service regarding the repair of a transformer that was installed inside Uphaar, minutes from Managing Director’s meetings, and four checks were among the documents that were allegedly tampered with, according to the charge sheet.

The charge sheet had stated that out of the six sets of papers, a check for Rs. 50 lakhs written by Sushil Ansal to himself and minutes of the MD’s meetings demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the two brothers were running the theatre’s day-to-day operations at the time.

The tampering was first noticed on July 20, 2002, and departmental investigation was initiated against Dinesh Chandra Sharma.  On June 25, 2004, he was placed on leave and eventually fired.

On June 13, 1997, a fire had erupted at the Uphaar theatre during the screening of the Hindi movie “Border.”