- Delhi court ordered release of real estate tycoons Sushil, Gopal Ansal against in Uphaar cinema case
- A magisterial court had on November 8, 2021, awarded seven-year jail terms to real estate barons
- The court, however, upheld the fine of Rs 2.25 crore imposed on each Sushil and Gopal Ansal
1997 Uphaar cinema fire: A Delhi court on Tuesday ordered the release of real estate tycoons Sushil and Gopal Ansal against the jail term already undergone by them in a case of tampering with evidence in the case related to the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire, which had claimed 59 lives.
A magisterial court had on November 8, 2021, awarded seven-year jail terms to real estate barons and since then they were in prison.
District Judge Dharmesh Sharma on Tuesday also ordered the release of former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and another convict PP Batra against their already undergone jail term since November 8, 2021.
The court, however, upheld the fine of Rs 2.25 crore imposed on each Sushil and Gopal Ansal and Rs three lakh each on the other two by the magisterial court earlier.
“We empathise with you (Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorti). Many lives were lost, which can never be compensated. But you must understand that penal policy is not about retribution. We have to consider their (Ansals) age. You have suffered, but they have also suffered,” the judge said.
The court Monday dismissed the appeal filed by real estate barons and two others challenging their conviction by the magisterial court.
Before storming out of the courtroom, Krishnamoorti told the judge that the order was “injustice” and that she had lost faith in the judiciary.
“This is complete injustice. We cannot have faith in the judiciary if the accused is rich and powerful... I made a mistake by coming to court. The system is corrupt,” Krishnamoorti told the judge and left the courtroom.
While upholding the conviction of the Ansal brothers, the court had, however, on Monday acquitted one co-accused, Anup Singh, in the case and granted him bail.
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.
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 of Rs 50 lakh, issued by Sushil Ansal to self, 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.
It said the Ansals had taken the defence in the main case that they had no involvement in the day-to-day functioning.
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.
The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film 'Border' on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.