CBI free to appeal against Uphaar verdict: Apex Court

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: File photo of Uphaar fire victims at AIIMS in New Delhi in 1997. 59 cinegoers died of asphyxia in a massive blaze that engulfed the theatre in 1997. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: File photo of Uphaar fire victims at AIIMS in New Delhi in 1997. 59 cinegoers died of asphyxia in a massive blaze that engulfed the theatre in 1997. Photo – PTI

A day after it set Ansal borthers free in the Uphaar tragedy case, though imposing a hefty fine of Rs 60 crores, the Supreme Court clarified that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is free to file the review petition challenging top court’s Wednesday verdict.

In a set-back to the victims of 1997 Uphaar cinema hall tragedy in Delhi, the top court on Wednesday ruled no further jail term for Ansal brothers, owners of the cinema hall where 59 cine-goers were killed in the fire tragedy. But the top court imposed a whopping Rs 30 crore fine each on industrialists Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal, in its verdict on the quantum of punishment after the two were already pronounced guilty of negligence last year.

The matter once again came to light early on Thursday, as the CBI counsel sought time for advancing arguments on the left out points on the quantum of sentence. The Supreme Court, however, declined CBI’s plea though granting them liberty to file review petition in the case.

“It will not be proper. We have already passed the order,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice AR Dave said when senior advocate Harish Salve, representing CBI, sought 15 minutes time to argue some of the points in the matter.

supreme_courtEarlier on Wednesday, the bench of Justice AR Dave, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar awarded the jail term for a period already undergone by the industrialists. In their order, the court further ordered the brothers to pay the total fine of Rs 60 crore in three months and deposit it with the Delhi government, which in turn will spend the money on welfare schemes.

While Sushil Ansal has spent over five months in prison, his brother Gopal Ansal has spent jail time of over four months.

The Delhi High Court in 2008 had awarded one-year jail term to both Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal holding them guilty of negligence in the tragedy on June 13, 1997. 59 cine-goers were killed due to asphyxia and over 100 were left injured in the subsequent stampede during the screening of Bollywood film ‘Border’.

The two-judge apex court bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra (since retired) on March 5, 2014, had also held Ansals guilty. But they had differed on the quantum of sentence to be awarded leading to the subsequent hearings. The bench, however, had concurred in their view that there was “contemptuous disregard” of civic laws on part of the Ansals that led to the tragedy as they were “more interested in making money than ensuring safety of people”.

Justice Thakur had awarded one-year jail term to both Sushil and Gopal Ansal, while Justice Mishra (Retd) had reduced the jail term to the period already served in jail by Sushil considering his age and enhanced the sentence of Gopal to two years.

(With inputs from the PTI)