The Delhi High Court on Wednesday rejected the application to suspend the sentence of a seven year jail term of Sushil and Gopal Ansal, the real estate barons in the Uphaar cinema fire evidence tampering case of 1997. The court observed that suspending the jail term would “erode the faith of the public in the judicial system”.
The bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad dismissed the plea filed by the Ansals’ seeking suspension of their jail term. However, an application filed by co-accused Anoop Singh Karayar was accepted by the court.
“This court is of the opinion that suspending the sentence of the petitioners would, therefore, amount to eroding the faith of the public in the judicial system as it would entail allowing convicts, whose finding of guilt has already been established, to take advantage of the passage of time as well as the judiciary as an institution. Cases of this nature should be heard and decided at the earliest as any delay in dealing with the same will only make people lose faith in the cherished institution, that is the judiciary.”
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Ansals, submitted that no judiciary system considered the primary conviction as final.
“There is a need to adopt a larger view and not a tactical one, the allegations were related to continuing conspiracy of tampering with evidence, but there is no direct evidence of tampering the evidence. The only ground was that I would be the beneficiary of delay.”
Singhvi further argued that everything was based on the point of benefit from conspiracy, but there cannot be an open ended, continuing conspiracy.
Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy opposed the application of the accused and submitted that the crime committed by the accused persons is a serious offence, it is extremely serious in nature as it affects the entire criminal justice system.
“It is direct interference in the administration of justice and thus requires serious consideration while suspending the sentence of seven years and a fine of ₹2.25 crores.”
The prosecution further argued that the Ansal brothers had been convicted for an offence for doing something illegal, therefore their plea should not be allowed. The brothers tried to obtain a favourable verdict by setting up a conspiracy.
The court observed that the brothers defiled the justice administration system by tampering the evidences.
“The high handedness of the accused persons for securing benefit in the trial sans documents by any means demonstrate the scant regard which they have for the justice delivery system which is the bedrock of our democracy. The brazen attitude of the accused persons is reflective from their conduct as after destruction of evidence they vehemently opposed the prosecution plea for seducing secondary evidence. They left no stone unturned to prevent advent of secondary evidence.”
The Ansal brothers had challenged an order which was passed by Additional Sessions Judge Anil on December 3, 2021.
59 people were killed and 100 were injured in the fire during the screening of the film Border in Uphaar cinema. People died in stampede and by suffocation as the escape routes of the cinema hall were blocked by the illegally placed chairs.