Uphaar cinema fire: HC questions Gopal Ansal for approaching court at last moment for permission to travel abroad

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned real estate tycoon Gopal Ansal, convicted in an evidence tampering case related to the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire trial, for approaching the court at the last moment seeking permission to travel abroad.

The high court said it cannot decide the application without giving an opportunity to the state to file its response.

Gopal Ansal told the court that he has to travel to Bangkok from September 28 to October 3 for a business meet.

Justice Jyoti Singh said, “Tell me why have you come at the last moment? You have come at the last moment, without giving any time to the state to respond. You have not given any time to the court also. You will have to postpone your visit. I cannot decide the application without giving them time to respond.”

The counsel for Gopal Ansal submitted that he got his passport renewed only on September 23 because of which it took him time to approach the court for permission and that his plea will become infructuous as he has to travel on Thursday.

The counsel representing the state contended that earlier Gopal Ansal’s application seeking renewal of passport was agreed to after his lawyer gave an undertaking that he will seek permission before travelling abroad.

Now he has come at the last moment so that the state does not get any time to file its reply or to verify his claims regarding the foreign visit, he argued.

After sometime, Gopal Ansal’s lawyer took instructions from his client and submitted that he would postpone his foreign visit by few days and file an amended travel schedule.

The high court then issued notice to the state and asked it to file status report on the application and listed the matter for further hearing on October 12.

The 75-year-old Gopal Ansal, in his earlier plea seeking renewal of passport, has said that he was required to travel abroad for business meetings and needed to get his passport renewed.

The application was filed in a pending petition of Gopal Ansal in which he has sought setting aside of the conviction and sentence for tampering with evidence.

He has already completed his jail term in the case which pertained to the fire incident on June 13, 1997.

Besides him, 84-year-old Sushil Ansal, their former employee P P Batra and former court staff Dinesh Chandra Sharma have also approached the high court seeking setting aside of their conviction and sentence.

The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) has already filed a petition in the high court for enhancement of the punishment awarded to the convicts in the evidence tampering case.

A magisterial court had on November 8, 2021 awarded seven-year jail terms to the two brothers and since then they were in prison.

The sessions court had on July 19, 2022 modified the magisterial court’s order on sentence and ordered the release of Sushil and Gopal Ansal, former court staff Sharma and Ansal’s then employee Batra against their already undergone jail term since November 8, 2021.

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It had imposed a fine of Rs 3 crore each on Sushil and Gopal Ansal and Rs 30,000 on Batra and Rs 60,000 on Sharma.

While upholding the conviction of the Ansal brothers, the trial court had acquitted co-accused Anup Singh in the case.

The matter is related to tampering with the evidence in the main fire tragedy case in which the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term by the Supreme Court.

The apex court, however, released them taking into account the prison time they had done on the condition that they pay a Rs 30 crore fine each for building a trauma centre in the national capital.

The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.

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