New Delhi, Dec 5: Real estate barons Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal today assured the Supreme Court that they would not leave India till it commences hearing on the plea seeking review of the 2015 verdict in the Uphaar fire tragedy case asking them to serve a two-year jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each as fine. A bench comprising Justices J S Khehar and N V Ramana considered the submission of Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) that there was a media report about the possibility of Ansals leaving the country in the absence of a restraint order from the apex court.Also Read - Supreme Court to Allow Journalists Inside Courtrooms in Physical Proceedings
Intially, the court said it would list the interim plea of AVUT for hearing tomorrow as a three-judge bench was not available today. However, the bench later asked the counsel representing Ansals to give an undertaking “on instructions from his clients” that they would not leave India till commencement of hearing on review pleas filed by AVUT and the CBI in the case. Senior advocate K T S Tulsi, appearing for AVUT, mentioned the plea for urgent hearing, saying “restrain respondents accused Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal from travelling abroad without seeking necessary permission of this court during the pendency of present review petition.” Also Read - Rajasthan Revises Order; Allows Sale, Bursting Of Green Crackers With Restricted Timings
AVUT, through its President Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who had lost her two teenaged children in the blaze, cited a media report that convicts were “on the verge of fleeing the country”. “Grave prejudice and irreparable loss would be caused to the Applicant/Review Petitioner (AVUT) if the respondents accused, Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal travel abroad, without seeking necessary permission of this court,” the plea said. 59 people had died of asphyxia when a fire broke out during the screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’ in Uphaar theatre in Green Park area of South Delhi on June 13, 1997. Over 100 were also injured in the subsequent stampede. Also Read - UPSC NDA Recruitment 2021: Female Fitness Standards, Other Eligibility Criteria To be Announced Soon
Earlier, AVUT had mentioned the review plea for urgent hearin before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur who said a new bench would be constituted to hear the review petitions filed by the CBI and Association. Prior to that, a bench headed by Justice A R Dave, now retired, had decided to hear in open court the petitions filed by CBI and the AVUT seeking review of the 2015 verdict. Following the judgement, Sushil and Gopal had deposited Rs 30 crore each to avoid the jail term. In its review plea, AVUT had said the apex court judgement “bestow an unwarranted leniency on convicts whose conviction in the most heinous of offences has been upheld by all courts including this court and sentences imposed on them have been substituted with fine without assigning any reason.”
“The sentences of the convicts have been reduced to the period undergone without taking into account the gravity of their offence,” it had said. The CBI, in its review plea, had said the apex court did not give it time to put its views forth which resulted in “miscarriage of justice”. The agency has said, “Due to the paucity of time on the day on which this case was heard, the prosecution could not adequately put across the reasons why this court should not substitute jail sentence with a monetary fine. “This petition also seeks to raise issue of an apparent error of law in the judgement and order of this court which has occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice,” it said.
CBI had also claimed that “callousness” of Ansal brothers led to 59 people being trapped and suffocated to death in the theatre. The apex court had, on August 19, 2015 sent Ansal brothers to two years rigorous jail term if they failed to pay Rs 30 crore each within three months. In a judgement on September 23, 2015, the bench had said the “magnitude” of the case “calls for a higher sentence” but the court has to limit itself to the choice available under the law. Earlier, a two-judge bench of justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Misra (since retired) had in a March 5, 2014 order differed on the quantum of sentence for Ansal brothers.
While Justice Thakur had retained the one-year jail term awarded by Delhi High Court in 2008, Justice Misra had pronounced the maximum punishment of two years with a rider that it can be reduced to the period already undergone behind bars on joint payment of Rs 100 crore as fine by them. The matter was later referred to a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dave (since retired) which enhanced the sentence to the maximum period of two years under section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of IPC if they failed to pay the fine amount. While Sushil has spent over five months in prison, Gopal was in jail for over four months soon after the accident. The three-judge bench had also said that on the principle of parity, the case of Gopal will stand on the same footing as that of Sushil.