The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought the response of Delhi Police to a plea by real estate tycoon Gopal Ansal, convicted and sentenced for tampering with evidence in the case related to the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire which claimed 59 lives, seeking renewal of his passport for 10 years.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani issued notice to the police and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) on the application of 74-year-old Gopal Ansal and asked them to file their replies within four weeks.
The high court listed the matter for further hearing on March 23.
Ansal, in the application, sought a direction that his passport may be renewed for a period of 10 years, contending it is the normal validity period of an ordinary passport.
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The high court said the record showed that by its August 10, 2021 order the trial court had said it had no objection to the renewal of the petitioner’s passport as per rules and procedure which permit renewal of the travel document for one year for people facing trial or appellate proceedings.
The application was filed in a pending petition of Gopal Ansal in which he has sought setting aside of the conviction and sentence for tampering with evidence.
He has already completed his jail term in the case which pertained to the fire incident on June 13, 1997.
Besides him, 83-year-old Sushil Ansal, their former employee P P Batra and former court staff Dinesh Chandra Sharma have also approached the high court seeking setting aside of their conviction and sentence.
AVUT has already filed a petition in the high court for enhancement of the punishment awarded to the convicts in the evidence tampering case.
A magisterial court had on November 8, 2021 awarded seven-year jail terms to the real two estate baron brothers and since then they were in prison.
The District Judge had on July 19, 2022 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 P P Batra against their already undergone jail term since November 8, 2021.
It had imposed a fine of Rs 3 crore each on Sushil and Gopal Ansal 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 co-accused Anup Singh in the case.
The matter 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 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 the recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records pertaining to repair of transformer installed inside Uphaar cinema, minutes of the 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 on July 20, 2002 and a departmental enquiry was initiated against Dinesh Chandra Sharma. He was suspended and terminated from service 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, claiming 59 lives.