Uphaar Fire Tragedy: Sushil Ansal Misled Govt & Courts To Obtain Passport, Says Delhi HC; Orders FIR [Read Order]
The Delhi High Court has held that real estate tycoon and 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case convict Sushil Ansal had “on oath misled the Government of India and the Court that he has not been convicted in any criminal proceedings by any Court” when he availed of the benefit of a passport under the tatkaal scheme in the year 2013 and travelled on it outside the country few times.
Justice Najmi Waziri ordered an FIR to be registered against the Delhi Police personnel who had given a police verification report in favour of Ansal way back in the year 2013 rather than mentioning criminal cases pending against him despite the pendency of his appeal in the main Uphaar fire tragedy case during the period from 30.1.2009 to 19.8.2015.
The court passed the order after it was informed by the counsel for Delhi Police that an inquiry has been initiated against three police officers who had given a favourable report and two of those officers have retired.
The court also questioned as to why the requirement of pre-police verification for the issuance of a passport was relaxed to post-police verification when Ansal applied for a passport in the year 2018.
“Clearly there is no explanation as to why there was relaxation apropos the requirement for pre-police verification to post-police verification for Sushil Ansal. The matter is being looked into by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Court is assured of a Report in the next four weeks. Let the matter be looked into by an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary, MEA. The Report be filed in Court, in a sealed cover,” ordered Justice Waziri.
“Apropos the cases against the police officials, let an FIR be registered by the Crime Branch, Delhi Police under the appropriate sections of law and a Report be filed in four weeks,” the court ordered.
The high court has been hearing a petition filed by the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) through its chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy and general secretary R Krishnamoorthy seeking an inquiry into purported connivance between Sushil Ansal and the passport authorities due to which he was issued passport without him applying for the mandatory no-objection certificate before any criminal court where cases against him have been pending for over 21 years since the fire tragedy.
Before the high court, the Delhi Police certified that Ansal had never travelled abroad in all this time when he had travelled out of India many times and called for a detailed affidavit.
The court’s attention to this aberration was attracted by AVUT’s counsel and senior advocate Vikas Pahwa that the list of documents filed by the police did not mention cases initiated against Ansal prior to 2012. Pahwa pointed out that the police report also certified that the applicant has not travelled outside the country when in fact, he had travelled outside the country.
The court noted that the Ansal was issued a passport in the year 2013 on a tatkaal application and to obtain the passport, he submitted an affidavit wherein he deposed there are no criminal proceedings pending against him in any court of law.
“Respondent no.4 (Ansal) benefited from the said passport and travelled on it outside the country few times. He did not take the requisite permission from the appropriate court in terms of GSR 570(E) mentioned hereinabove. In effect, he has on oath misled the Government of India and the Court that he has not been convicted in any criminal proceedings by any Court,” noted Justice Waziri.
The court was also informed that before the expiry of the tenure of the said passport issued in 2013, Ansal surrendered it before the Regional Passport Officer (RPO) in August 2017 because he knew that adverse orders against him may well be passed. The passport issued to him by the MEA in the year 2018 was through the normal procedure and not through the tatkal scheme. Two adverse reports were given against the applicant by the Delhi Police. However, no NOC from the court was submitted to the RPO.
On issuance of the passport in 2018, ASG Maninder Acharya submitted that at the time of issuance, three cases against Sushil Ansal were to be looked into: (i) the unfortunate Uphaar fire tragedy in which R-4 already stood convicted, so there were no pending proceedings; (ii) tampering of evidence case in which NOC was issued by the court concerned and (iii) the case filed by Ms. Neelam Krishnamoorty, in which proceedings had been stayed in the year 2016 and respondent no.4 had been discharged from proceedings on 14.07.2015.
However, two adverse police reports were filed by Delhi Police on 10.05.2018 and 11.06.2018, in which they gave reference to various cases.
The court also noted that despite the adverse reports being in the knowledge of the RPO, a fresh passport was issued to Ansal. After issuance of the passport, the RPO, Delhi, had sought clarifications from Delhi Police. The clarification was issued by Delhi Police on 04.10.2018, listing all criminal cases pending or otherwise initiated against Ansal. Thereafter, the said passport issued to Ansal was recalled.
Ansal’s counsel senior advocate Rebecca John contended that seeking of information beyond the statutorily permissible parameters under Section 6 of the Act would be impermissible and insofar as the tatkaal scheme seeks information, which is beyond Section 6 of the Act, a citizen is not compelled to give that information.
To this, the bench said, “The Court is not persuaded by the said argument because the tatkaal scheme is a special arrangement for the benefit of citizens, who may desire issuance of a passport on an urgent basis. However such expeditious issuance of passports would be subject to receipt of requisite information to the Government, either by way of documents or affidavits which the Government would, for the interim, take to be truthful statements.
“Sushil Ansal had availed the benefit of the tatkaal scheme and had specifically deposed, by way of an affidavit, that he had never been punished by any criminal court for an offence. This is in the face of his conviction in the year 2007, the sentence of punishment was reduced to one year in 2008, which was further reduced by the Supreme Court in 2014. When respondent no.4 filed the affidavit, he ought to have made it clear to the Government that he had indeed been convicted for at least one year by this Court”.
Justice Waziri took note of the report by Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad, Joint Secretary (Gulf), Ministry of External Affairs, who had observed that “When Shri Sushil Ansal applied for a new passport on 2/5/2018, he submitted an undertaking as per GSR 570(E) declaring that one case was pending against him. Here again, he had suppressed material information about the other court proceedings against him but RPO could have taken the police report into account before issuing the short validity passport.
“If Shri Sushil Ansal was ignorant of the rules and procedure of applying for a passport and had unintentionally and by mistake failed to declare that he had faced criminal proceedings and had been convicted when applying for passports in 2013 (as voluntarily stated by him in August 2017), he would have submitted applications for the release of his valid passport held in safe custody or would have sought an order from the court to that effect. However, he got a specific NOC for a specific case with a specific direction for issue of a passport. This clearly proves that Shri Sushil Ansal was very much aware of the rules and procedures governing the application for an Indian passport.”
The report by Nagendra Prasad further said, “It was not clear as to why the case was suddenly moved from pre-PV to post-PV without any written explanations or reasons recorded in June 2018. It is also not clear why the Passport Office failed to record the reasons for over-ruling the adverse reports in May-June 2018 and also did not send a speaking order/ show cause notice to the applicant asking him why passport service should not be denied to him….”
“It was not clear as to why the case was suddenly moved from pre-PV to post-PV without any written explanations or reasons recorded in June 2018. It is also not clear why the Passport Office failed to record the reasons for over-ruling the adverse reports in May-June 2018 and also did not send a speaking order/ show cause notice to the applicant asking him why passport service should not be denied to him….”
The court, therefore, ordered that the inquiry report sought by it “would suggest measures for plugging in such lacunae as have been observed by Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad…”