Uphaar Case: After Supreme Court refuses it permission to reopen arguments, CBI set to file a review petition against letting off Ansal brothers
Victims association to take a decision on filing review petition after consulting their legal team led by Senior Advocate K T S Tulsi.
The Central Bureau of Investigation today decided to file a review plea against Wednesday’s “shocking”decision of the Supreme Court to let off theatre owners Gopal and Sushil Ansal, convicted in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy which claimed 59 lives, after considering the period they had already undergone in the prison as their sentence and imposing a fine of Rs 30 crore each.
This was following a suggestion today morning from the bench headed by justice Anil R Dave to Harish Salve, the senior advocate who represented the CBI as a special public prosecutor.
At the stroke of 10:30 AM when the bench which delivered the order just before rising on Wednesday, sat for beginning the proceedings for today, Salve mentioned the matter again saying he wanted to argue for just 15 minutes to raise several crucial points he could not argue yesterday.
But justice Dave refused the plea saying “we have already pronounced our order and as per rules a fresh hearing cannot be granted nor the arguments be reopened. You file a review petition against our order. We will consider your grievances then.
Salve said “I appeared for CBI for 16 years pro bono in this matter. But was not able to argue yesterday, give me just 15 minutes”.
CBI is of the view that the judges, while letting off the accused with mere fine, did not consider several aspects dealt with by the bench which had convicted the Ansals. They ask how can such lenient view be taken after the SC had earlier noted that “contemptuous disregard of civic law (in the tragedy) was glaring" and “cinema owners were more interested in making money than ensuring safety of the public”
As many as 59 people died and 100 were injured in the fire during the screening of Hindi blockbuster Border on the evening of June 13, 1997.
The fire started in the parking lot and then engulfed the building in the busy Green Park area.
CBI says the court had itself brought out the negligence on the part of Ansals saying most people died in the ensuing stampede or were asphyxiated as the escape routes were blocked by illegally fixed chairs.
The trial court had sentenced the duo to two years’ rigorous imprisonment in November 2007. But in December 2008, the Delhi High Court reduced their sentence to one year. While Sushil Ansal spent 5 months in jail, Gopal remained in jail for four months and 32 days.
“I have information that CBI will be filing a review petition. We will take a final decision regarding this after consulting our legal team led by senior advocate K T S Tulsi”, Neelam Krishnamurthy, the President of Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, who herself lost two of her children in the tragedy, told LiveLaw.
Weeping inconsolably and angry, Krishnamoorthy had told reporters outside the court on Wednesday: “We are shocked by the judgment. Can money be a substitute when we have lost our children. I had reposed immense faith in the highest court of the land. But the judges have let me down.”
But yesterday when asked if she would file a review petition, she had said “there is nothing left for me to fight now. It has once again been proved that the judicial system stands for the rich and powerful”. Apparently, the comments made by justice Dave today has given the victim’s association some hope that they will be heard again and all is still not lost.
Read LiveLaw Coverage on Uphaar Case here.