The Delhi police on Thursday urged a court to award life imprisonment to real estate barons Sushil & Gopal Ansal and others for tampering with evidence in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire case that had claimed 59 lives. The court had on October 8 convicted Ansals, a former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and individuals P P Batra and Anoop Singh in the case.
Two other accused, Har Swaroop Panwar and Dharamvir Malhotra, died during the trial.
Police urged Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma to award maximum punishment to the convicts, claiming that the “offences proved against them are of gravest of its kind and has ultimately shattered the faith of the common man in the justice delivery system.”
Additional public prosecutor of Delhi police, A T Ansari submitted before the court that there was a crying need to restore the faith and trust, people have in the criminal justice delivery system of the country.
“It is this faith of common man which has been a casualty in this case. This case has ultimately shattered the trust of the common in the justice delivery system. It is this strength of judiciary is sought to weaken by the convicts,” he said.
“By tampering with evidence forming part of judicial records, convicts sought to hamper and scuttle the legal process of law. They have not only polluted the stream of justice but they have also potentially undermined the majesty of rule of law,” police said.
Ansari added that the possibility of reform cannot be expected from Ansals, who were held guilty previously as well.
The case is related to tampering with the evidence in the main case of fire tragedy which had claimed 59 lives, in which the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to 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 Rs 30 crore fine each, to be used for building a trauma centre in the national capital.
While convicting the accused in the present case, the court had accepted the arguments advocated by senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for the complainant Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), that Ansals and H S Panwar hatched a criminal conspiracy of the destruction of the most vital piece of evidence collected by the CBI against them in the main Uphaar case.
The documents were handpicked and were tampered with, mutilated, torn and some also went missing, he told the court.
The prosecution claimed that Ansals were prosecuted in the main case and the documents which were mutilated, destroyed, or illegally removed, manifested their involvement in the day-to-day functioning of the Uphaar Cinema.
It said that Ansals had taken the defence in the main case that they had no involvement in the day-to-day functioning of Uphaar Cinema.
The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002, and when it was unearthed, a departmental enquiry was initiated against Dinesh Chand Sharma and he was suspended.
Later an enquiry was conducted and he was terminated from services on June 25, 2004.
The prosecution said that after the termination, the Ansal brothers helped Sharma get employment on a monthly salary of Rs 15,000.
When the case was registered, the documents of the company, where Sharma was employed post suspension, were further tampered with by its chairperson Anoop Singh.
According to the charge sheet, the documents alleged to have been tampered with included a police memo giving details of recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records about 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 theater at the relevant time, the charge sheet had said.
The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.
The case was lodged on the direction of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition by AVUT chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy.Internet Explorer Channel Network