Uphaar Fire: SC Refuses Immediate Hearing to Ansal's Petition

New Delhi
Uphaar Fire: SC Refuses Immediate Hearing to Ansal's Petition

The Supreme Court today refused to give immediate hearing to a plea of real estate baron Gopal Ansal, convicted in the Uphaar fire tragedy convict, seeking its nod to visit London and New York on a business trip.

A bench comprising justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan declined to hear Ansal's plea and asked him to mention the matter next week before another vacation bench.

A plea has been moved by Ansal in the court seeking its nod to travel to London from June 16-20 and to New York on June 20-27 and back to India on June 28-29.

An application on behalf of Gopal Ansal was mentioned before the bench on the day of the 17th anniversary of the tragedy.

Ansal brothers -- Sushil and Gopal -- who have been convicted in the June 13, 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy which claimed 59 lives during the screening of the Hindi blockbuster 'Border' have been restrained by the apex court on April 22 from leaving the country without its permission.

The plea moved by Ansal said that he needs to travel to London to meet financers, investors, architects and to discuss investment proposals for 45 acres of land belonging to M/s Ansal Buildwell Ltd and associate companies in Kumrakom, Kerala.

For his New York visit from London, Ansal in his plea said that he needs to explore real estate development possibilities in and around the American city.

Ansal said that after his return to India on June 28/29, he will be informing the court forthwith.

On March 26, the apex court had expressed serious displeasure over Sushil Ansal leaving the country without its prior permission.

The Association of Victims of Uphaar Fire Tragedy (AVUT) had approached the Supreme Court against Ansals' travelling abroad without the court's permission.

The Association had contended that since Ansals' have been convicted by the apex court, they cannot leave the country without the permission of the top court.

Further, it had sought imposition of suitable conditions on the bail enjoyed by Ansals' as no conditions were stipulated, when they were granted bail on January 30, 2009.

"We appeal to the Government of India to bring in a new legislation to deal with man-made disasters pending for past 5 years," AVUT said. 

The apex court had on March 5, held Ansals guilty in the 1997 Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy, saying they were more interested about making money than ensuring safety of the cinegoers.

The court had upheld the conviction of Sushil and Gopal Ansal for the tragedy that claimed the lives of 59 people.

Justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Misra, however, had disagreed over the quantum of punishment to be given to them and the issue has been referred to a three-judge bench to pronounce a final verdict on it.

While Justice Thakur had retained one-year jail term of Sushil and Gopal Ansal as imposed by the Delhi High Court, Justice Misra reduced the jail term to already undergone by Sushil considering his age but enhanced the sentence of Gopal to two years.

Justice Misra had also imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Ansal brothers to be used for construction of a trauma centre and super-speciality hospital.

The bench, however, was concurrent in its finding that there was contemptuous disregard of civic laws on the part of Ansals that led to the tragedy as they were more interested in making money than ensuring safety of people.

The bench had passed the order on cross appeals filed by CBI, AVUT and Ansals' challenging the Delhi High Court order.

AVUT, which observed the 17th anniversary of the incident, today issued a statement and said members of the Association hope that the larger bench would consider the enormity of the tragedy before deciding on the quantum of sentence.

"It is very evident from the findings of the Supreme Court that 59 invaluable lives were snuffed out due to wanton disregard of the statutes with the intention of making extra money rather than ensuring the safety of patrons.

"We also hope that the decision on the quantum of punishment is such that it would send a strong message to the occupiers and owners of public spaces that they cannot endanger human lives to fill their coffers," the statement said.

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