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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

Uphaar: SC judge recuses himself from Ansal's plea

PTI  New Delhi, June 16, 2014
First Published: 14:49 IST(16/6/2014) | Last Updated: 15:00 IST(16/6/2014)

A Supreme Court judge on Monday recused himself from hearing a plea of real estate baron Gopal Ansal, convicted in the Uphaar fire tragedy case, seeking its nod to visit London and New York on a business trip.

As soon as Ansal's lawyer mentioned the matter, Justice Vikramajit Sen, who was heading the bench, said that the case be listed before another bench.

Ansal has petitioned the court seeking its permission to travel to London from June 16-20 and to New York on June 20-27 and return to India on June 28-29.

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', were restrained by the apex court on April 22 from leaving the country without its permission.

Gopal Ansal said that he needed 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 said that he needed to explore real estate development possibilities in and around the US city.

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

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

The apex court had on March 5 upheld the conviction of the Ansals in the case, saying they were more interested about making money than ensuring safety of the cinegoers.

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

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 the Ansals that led to the tragedy as they were more interested in making money than ensuring safety of the people.

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

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


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