CBI on Thursday vehemently opposed in court the plea for release of Uphaar cinema case convict and real estate baron Gopal Ansal on probation on the grounds of his "contribution to the national economy", saying none of the convicts deserved mercy.
Additional Session Judge Mamta Sehgal fixed for 3 pm on Friday the delivery of her verdict on sentencing of the 12 convicts in the 1997 fire tragedy case as the court wrapped up hearing their arguments on point of punishment. Fifty nine people were killed in the Uphaar blaze.
Prem Kumar, arguing for Gopal Ansal, sought leniency saying his client's contribution to Indian economy was immense as he was heading several estate companies worth over Rs 3,000 crore and was a leader of real estate.
"One thousand people are directly employed by him while over 10,000 people are dependent on them," he said, claiming their lives may be affected if the convict is sentenced to a jail term.
Gopal, a civil engineer, should be extended the benefit of probation keeping in view his profile, background, his active involvement in various charitable activities, bad health and that he had no "direct role" to play when the incident occurred, the counsel said.
However, the CBI counsel YK Saxena strongly opposed the convicts' plea to be released on probation or by paying fine and said, "They do not deserve any mercy or sympathy".
"They be awarded the maximum punishment prescribed under the penal provisions of IPC under which they have been found guilty by this court," Saxena said, adding they were guilty of the most callous kind of criminal negligence.
Seeking "deterrent" punishment for them, he said they must have anticipated that their acts of negligence could lead to such a disaster, which claimed 59 lives in the blaze that engulfed the theatre on June 13, 1997.
Terming the leniency plea of builders Sushil and Gopal Ansal and others as "baseless," CBI's counsel claimed they should not be released on probation as they had the knowledge of utter disregard of public safety in the cinema hall.
"Records of this case show that they were too callous regarding public safety that they allowed the victims to be trapped inside the hall," he said.
"The benefits of either Section 360 of the CrPC or Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act (dealing with the release of convicts on probation by furnishing good behaviour bonds) should not be extended to them as they have been found guilty of criminal negligence," the counsel said.
The court, after hearing the submissions of the CBI counsel, said that it would pronounce the sentence against the convicts at 3 pm tomorrow.
Meanwhile, it declined to entertain a strange application by one Rajat Bobal, who claimed that the fire at Uphaar cinema was a handiwork of US military caused by a satellite controlled laser weapon and sought investigation into this aspect before the pronouncement of verdict.
"I have already decided the case. This application has no relevance. Moreover, if you want to allege something, say before the Delhi High Court," the judge said, asking Bobal to give a copy of it to the prosecutor.
The court had on Tuesday convicted 12 persons, including Ansal brothers, in the decade-old fire tragedy case under various provisions of law.
Ansals and three others -- Shyam Sunder Sharma, N D Tiwari (MCD officials) and H S Panwar (Delhi Fire Service) -- were held guilty under sections 304A and 337 and 338 of the IPC, which pertain to endangering human lives, that carry two years as the maximum punishment.