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Uphaar tragedy: Gopal Ansal moves Supreme Court to defer his surrender

Gopal Ansal is the owner of Uphaar cinema where a fire broke out in 1997, killing 59 people. The Supreme Court had, on February 9, sentenced one year jail term to the city-based builder. He was to surrender by March 9.

delhi Updated: Feb 27, 2017 23:28 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times
Uphaar fire,Uphaar tragedy,Uphaar verdict
Gopal Ansal is the owner of Uphaar Cinema where a fire in 1997 killed 59 people. (HT Photo)

Gopal Ansal, owner of the Uphaar cinema where a fire breakout killed 59 people in 1997, has on Monday moved the Supreme Court urging it to modify its order sending him to jail, with almost a week left for the deadline of his surrender.

The Supreme Court had, on February 9, sentenced one year jail term to the city-based builder. He was to surrender by March 9, to serve seven months, since he had served a four-month in jail previously.

Read: Uphaar cinema fire: SC jails Gopal Ansal for a year, asks him to surrender

The court had but spared his elder brother Sushil, who co-owned the ill-fated cinema, taking to consideration his age and ailments. Terming his petition a “redressal of genuine grievance,” Gopal said the court could not have denied him the same relief that was extended to Sushil because his medical condition is equally precarious.

The application, likely to be mentioned on Tuesday, is an attempt to reopen the case that attained finality early this month.

Gopal wants the court to apply principle of parity in his case on the ground that he has already spent more in custody than his brother has. He wants the court to extend the time of surrender till it decides his application, which Gopal wants to be heard in open court. He claimed to be a victim of prejudice “created in high political circles and the media” and reiterated his innocence.

On March 5, 2014, an SC bench of Justices TS Thakur and GS Mishra had upheld the conviction of Ansal brothers, but differed on the quantum of sentence. Justice Thakur agreed with the High Court decision to reduce the imprisonment to one year. Although Justice Mishra said a two-year prison term was justified, he held the sentence could be reduced to one year if the brothers paid Rs 50 crore each for construction of a trauma centre in Dwarka.

Read: Uphaar cinema verdict: Families of fire tragedy victims say ‘justice’ eludes them

On August 19, 2015, a bench of Justices AR Dave, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel rejected the CBI’s plea for two-year jail term and let off the Ansal brothers with the period of jail term already undergone. Each brother was asked to pay Rs 30 crore as fine. However, on a review, the top court modified its order, directing Gopal to surrender.

Gopal’s application submitted that he did not question the fine amount and “cheerfully accepted it” because of its “beneficent” motive.

He listed his ailments and claimed his health was more “brittle” than his elder brother. He is said to be suffering from age-related cerebral atrophy, which has affected his nervous system resulting in loss of memory. He has hearing impairment, due to which he has fainted several times. Expressing “genuine remorse” for those who died in the “unfortunate tragedy,” Gopal contended he has borne punishment more than he deserved.

First Published: Feb 27, 2017 23:28 IST