HC seeks details of Uphaar fire tragedy case from trial court

New Delhi, Jan 17 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today sought details of a case relating to 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy which was being heard by a trial court, after the victims’ body moved a plea for speedy trial in the matter.

Justice Anu Malhotra sought to know the status and number of witnesses being cross-examined in a case emanating out of alleged tampering of documents during trial of the main case involving real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal.

It sought to know the details of pending matters before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Patiala House court here, who is hearing Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on January 29.

Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, representing Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, sought day-to-day trial in a case related to tampering of evidence in the case.

He contended that despite charges being framed and upheld by the high court, not a single prosecution witness has been examined.

Delhi Police standing counsel, Rahul Mehra was also in favour of speedy trial in the matter.

A trial court had on January 31, 2003, ordered an inquiry after some documents related to the case had gone missing from the court’s record room. After an inquiry, a court employee was dismissed from service.

The case is related to the tampering of a judicial file pertaining to a letter written by Vice President of Ansal Properties Industries Ltd, V K Nagpal, to the Delhi Fire Service. An FIR was registered in this regard.

“It is important to note, that even in the main Uphaar fire tragedy case, the entire trial was concluded within a period of 10 years with the intervention of this court…

“However, in the instant case, which arises out tampering with the original court records of the Uphaar fire tragedy case, despite 10 years from the date of registration of FIR, not a single prosecution witness has been able to complete their deposition,” the plea by association president Neelam Krishnamoorthy said.

The Delhi High Court had on May 12 last year, upheld a trial court order framing charges of tampering of evidence against Ansals.

On June 13, 1997, a fire had broken out at the theatre during the screening of Bollywood film ‘Border’, killing 59 people and injuring over 100.

A magisterial court had on May 31, 2014 ordered framing of charges against seven accused for abatement of offence, causing disappearance of evidence, criminal breach of trust by public servant and criminal conspiracy under the IPC.

Theatre owners Gopal Ansal and his brother Sushil Ansal, Anoop Singh, Prem Prakash Batra, Harswaroop Panwar, Dharamveer Malhotra and Dinesh Chandra Sharma were accused of tampering with evidence in the case, pending since 2006.

All the accused have denied the allegations against them.

On February 9, the Supreme Court in the curative petition had sentenced Gopal Ansal to jail for a year in connection with the blaze. However, the bench had spared 77-year-old Sushil Ansal because of his age. It had also upheld the fine of Rs 30 crore each imposed on the duo and had said the money should be utilised to set up up a trauma centre.

Following this, Gopal Ansal had approached the Supreme Court seeking modification of its order on the grounds of parity, saying he was 69 years old and would suffer irreparable damage to his health if sent to prison which was dismissed and Gopal Ansal surrendered before the Tihar Jail authorities on March 20.

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