The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to explain why it had been holding the Uphaar cinema hall premises ever since the fire tragedy over 16 years ago.
A bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra directed the CBI to file an affidavit giving details of when and under what law it had seized the hall.
The provision under which it was seized and the purpose for which it was too has to be specified in the affidavit. It also sought to know under whose orders guards had been deployed at the Uphaar cinema after the seizure.
The court order came on Ansal Theatres and Clubotels Pvt Ltd's application seeking release of the premises, which is under the agency's control since the CBI took over the probe.
The company has contended that the CBI had no legal justification to seize the premises.
There was no seizure memo given to the company. In the plea, it further said the trial court had not passed the order for release of the hall after the conclusion of the trial and that there was no provision to seize immovable property.
The agency explained that the hall was evidence and a case against then DCP (licensing) was pending consideration before the trial court. But when its failed to point out the legal provision under which the cinema hall was seized, the CBI was pulled up by the bench. The court observed that it was illegal to hold the property without seizure memo. "Who is guarding the property and under what authority? You cannot do this… Police raj is going on," the court said. It asked CBI to justify the seizure.
The court added: "There is no seizure memo. You go and prevent the owners from taking over… You cannot seize a property where a murder takes place." Giving two weeks to the agency, the court said it would consider the company's application for the release of the hall on May 8.
Meanwhile, the Centre and Delhi government were asked to say if the authorities were following an earlier apex court verdict laying down guidelines for cinema halls to prevent disasters like the Uphaar tragedy.