The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of the Ansal brothers challenging a trial court order summoning them for alleged tampering with evidence related to the 1999 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy.
Giving a clear message that tampering with evidence would lead to criminal prosecution, the court also slapped a fine of Rs. 25, 000 on theatre owners Sushil and Gopal Ansal, who were sentenced to two years jail term by the trial court.
In December last year, the high court modified the trial court order and reduced their sentence from two to one year jail term.
Justice S Muralidhar on Thursday dismissed the plea of the Ansal brothers challenging the order of the trial court that had asked them to appear in a case of alleged tampering with evidence. He said: "This court is unable to therefore accept the submission that the investigation was either unfair or that there was no material on which the trial court could have taken cognizance and summoned the petitioners."
"It cannot be said that there is not even a prima facie case made out against any of the accused and that because none of the accused had anything to gain by documents going missing or being tampered, they should be discharged," the court ruled.
Earlier, Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal on Jan 31, 2003, had ordered an inquiry after some documents related to the Uphaar case went missing from the court record room.
After the inquiry, the judge for tampering with the court records on June 25, 2004 dismissed one court staff.
The Delhi High Court had ordered the police to register a case in this regard on May 5, 2006, and ordered it to complete the investigations within three months.
"There appear to be several circumstances relied upon by the prosecution to prove the conspiracy involving the accused. These include the call data conversations between Dinesh Chand Sharma (court staffer who was dismissed for tampering with evidence) and Prem Prakash Batra, providing employment to Dinesh Chand Sharma after his dismissal from A-Plus Security and Training Institute, applying fluid over his name in the attendance register, giving him double salary by paying cash and so on," the judge said in his judgement.
The police lodged an FIR May 17, 2006, and arrested Dinesh Chand Sharma.
The police later filed a chargesheet in the court naming the Ansal brothers and two others as accused. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had issued summons to all the accused on Feb 15, 2008, after which the Ansal brothers approached the Delhi High Court, which stayed the trial court proceedings on April 30, 2008.
At least 59 people died of asphyxia following a fire in the basement of the Uphaar cinema hall on June 13, 1999. The Ansals are owners of the cinema hall.