Uphaar case: Court upholds conviction of Ansals in evidence tampering case

Updated on Jul 19, 2022 06:15 AM IST

District judge Dharmesh Sharma also upheld the conviction of two other accused -- PP Batra and Dinesh Chand Sharma—even as he set aside the conviction of another accused, Anoop Singh.

At least 59 people lost their lives and over 100 were injured in the stampede after a fire broke out at the Uphaar Cinema on June 13, 1997.(HT file photo)
At least 59 people lost their lives and over 100 were injured in the stampede after a fire broke out at the Uphaar Cinema on June 13, 1997.(HT file photo)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A Delhi court on Monday upheld the conviction of real estate barons Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal in connection with the evidence tampering case linked to the 1997 Uphaar cinema hall fire tragedy, saying that there is no “merit” in their appeals.

District judge Dharmesh Sharma also upheld the conviction of two other accused -- PP Batra and Dinesh Chand Sharma—even as he set aside the conviction of another accused, Anoop Singh.

The court said that it will hear fresh arguments on the sentence on Tuesday while noting that the accused had also challenged the quantum of sentence awarded to them. The judge asked the four convicts— the Ansal brothers, Batra and Sharma to remain present in the court on Tuesday.

A detailed order was not uploaded on the district court’s website till the time of going to press.

At least 59 people lost their lives and over 100 were injured in the stampede after a fire broke out at the Uphaar Cinema on June 13, 1997 during the screening of JP Dutta’s film ‘Border’.

On October 8, 2021, the court had convicted the Ansal brothers, Batra, Singh and Sharma of abetment of offence, causing disappearance of evidence, criminal breach of trust by a public servant and criminal conspiracy. Batra and Singh worked for the Ansals, and Sharma is a retired court staff.

On November 8, the court sentenced the Ansal brothers to seven years in prison and also imposed a fine of 2.25 crore each on them. The same jail term was awarded to the three other accused, and they were ordered to pay a fine of 3 lakh each.

On December 3, 2021, a session’s court refused to suspend the sentence of the Ansals, an order which was challenged by the two brothers and later upheld by the Delhi high court on February 16. The high court had also asked the trial court to decide their appeals expeditiously.

According to the prosecution, during the trial of the case, the Ansals and five others, including Sharma, had torn and defaced crucial documents to secure their acquittal. The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002. A departmental enquiry was initiated against Sharma and he was suspended. Later, an enquiry was conducted and he was terminated from services on June 25, 2004.

According to the charge sheet, the documents tampered with included a police memo detailing the recoveries immediately after the incident, the Delhi Fire Service records regarding the repair of the transformer installed inside the cinema hall, minutes of managing director’s meetings and four cheques.

Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), argued that the ultimate desired result was not just restricted to the tampering of documents, but to secure acquittal of the Ansals in the main fire case.

In the main case, the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court in August 2015.

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

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    Reports from the Delhi High Court and stories on legal developments in the city. Avid mountain lover, cooking and playing with birds 🐦 when not at work

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