Friday, May 20, 2022

Delhi Court To Announce Verdict In Uphaar Fire Tragedy Evidence Tampering Case Tomorrow

The case involved real estate barons including Ansals, while the evidence tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002.

Delhi Court To Announce Verdict In Uphaar Fire Tragedy Evidence Tampering Case Tomorrow
Delhi Court to pronounce its order in Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy tomorrow.(File photo) PTI

A Delhi Court is likely to announce its verdict on Friday in a case related to the evidence tampering in 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy.

The case involved real estate barons Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal among others.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma reserved the order on Thursday after the conclusion of final arguments in the matter.

The case is related to the tampering with the evidence of the main case of the fire tragedy which had claimed 59 lives, in which Ansals were convicted and sentenced to two years jail term by the Supreme Court.

However, the apex court released them on the period already undergone in the jail on the condition that they pay Rs 30 crore fine each to be used for building a trauma centre in the national capital.

The Ansal brothers along with a court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma, and other individuals -- P P Batra, Har Swaroop Panwar, Anoop Singh, and Dharamvir Malhotra -- were booked in the present case.

Panwar and Malhotra died during the course of the trial.

Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for the complainant Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), told the court on Thursday that Ansals and HS 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.

The Delhi police had earlier told the court that tampering with evidence by real estate barons eroded the confidence and trust of a common man in the criminal justice delivery system.

It said that the Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy was the most sensitive case of the city at that time and tampering with the documents in such a case could not be taken lightly.

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 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 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.

The accused are charged with offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 109 (abetment), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC. (With PTI inputs)