New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) Delhi Police Wednesday told a court here that suspending the 7-year jail terms awarded to real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal for tampering with evidence in the 1997 case of Uphaar cinema fire will trigger the mental trauma and agony of the victims.
It told Additional Sessions Judge Anil Antil that the punishment provided a solace to the victims of the tragedy and reinforced their faith in the justice delivery system, that too after 24 years.
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If the 7-year sentence awarded to the convicts is suspended just after 15 days of incrimination it will further erode the faith of common citizens of this country in our criminal justice system, additional public prosecutor A T Ansari told the court.
“The manner in which the most crucial documents capable of establishing the involvement of Ansals in the case were handpicked from the court record comprising more than 15,000 pages, relevant portion of the documents were torn, obliterated and defaced by sprinkling ink on them, was not a simple air strike but it was a guided missile attack to hit the target,” Ansari told the court.
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He added that it was not less than an assault on the justice delivery system whereby institutional integrity of Delhi judiciary was sought to be undermined.
The case was related to tampering with the evidence in the main fire tragedy case, which had claimed 59 lives, in which the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to 2-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 Rs 30 crore fine each, to be used for building a trauma centre in the national capital.
Besides challenging their conviction and jail term awarded by the magisterial court, Ansals have also urged the court to suspend their punishment while the pendency of the appeal.
The magisterial court also awarded 7-year-jail term each to former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and two others — P P Batra and Anoop Singh — and imposed a fine of Rs 3 lakh each on the them.
The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002, and when it was unearthed, a departmental enquiry was initiated against Sharma and he was suspended.
Later an enquiry was conducted and he was terminated from services on June 25, 2004.
The prosecution said that after the termination, the Ansal brothers helped Sharma get employment on a monthly salary of Rs 15,000.
When the case was registered, the documents of the company, where Sharma was employed post suspension, were further tampered with by its chairperson Anoop Singh.
According to the charge sheet, the documents alleged to have been tampered with included a police memo giving details of recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records pertaining to repair of transformer installed inside Uphaar, minutes of Managing Director’s meetings, and four cheques.
Out of the six sets of documents, a cheque of Rs 50 lakh, issued by Sushil Ansal to self, and minutes of the MD’s meetings, proved beyond doubt that the two brothers were handling the day-to-day affairs of the theatre at the relevant time, the charge sheet had said.
The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives.
The case was lodged on the direction of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition by Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy.
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