Supreme Court judge Anil R Dave, who headed the bench which held that the Ansal brothers did not deserve further jail term in connection with the 1997 Uphaar fire case due to their advanced ages, did not want to reconsider the verdict and the quantum of punishment for Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal a few days before his retirement. Justice Dave retired last week.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur disclosed this fact when the association representing the families of 59 people who lost their lives in the blaze sought a hearing of their review petition against the August 2015 Supreme Court verdict.
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Senior advocate K T S Tulsi, representing the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), mentioned the matter before the CJI.
“We did mention the matter before too but the review petition is yet to be listed for hearing. Our plea for an open court hearing of the review petition has been allowed,” he said.
Justice Thakur replied, “Yes, I remember. I spoke to Justice Dave but he was of the view that he would not want to hear this matter just a few days before his retirement.”
At this, Tulsi said that the review petition has been filed more than a year ago and they have been awaiting a hearing by the bench, which was headed by Justice Dave, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh K Goel. “We have repeatedly mentioned to put it for listing,” he added.
The CJI responded that some other judge would have to be placed on the bench in place of Justice Dave in the wake of the latter’s retirement. “We would have to nominate some other judge. Let me look into it,” said Justice Thakur.
The AVUT, however, returned without any definite date of hearing yet again.
Almost 18 years after 59 people were killed in the blaze inside Delhi’s Uphaar cinema hall, its owners Gopal and Sushil Ansal, who were held guilty of “criminal negligence”, had escaped further jail term, with the Supreme Court noting that Sushil is “fairly aged” and his younger brother deserves “parity” with him. Sushil Ansal is 75 years old and Gopal is 67.