The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to allow it some more time to argue for punishment against Gopal and Sushil Ansal in the 1997 Uphaar fire case, and suggested that the agency should instead file a review petition.
Eighteen years after 59 people were killed in a blaze inside the Uphaar cinema hall in New Delhi, its owners Ansal brothers, held guilty of “criminal negligence”, escaped further jail term after the court ruled a day ago that a penalty of Rs 60 crore was adequate punishment. The Ansal brothers, who are real estate barons, have served a jail term between four and five months during the legal wrangle.
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Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the CBI, mentioned the matter before a three-judge bench led by Justice Anil R Dave on Thursday. “The CBI was not given enough time. There were certain aspects that we could not argue. Give us some more time, 30 minutes or even 15 minutes,” he submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel.
Salve added, “I have been doing this case pro-bono since 2000. Please grant us 15-minutes between 3.45 and 4 pm today. If the court is not convinced, then throw us out.”
He said the Supreme Court has extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to issue any orders in the interest of justice and hence the CBI should be given one more opportunity before the detailed judgment is released.
But the bench told Salve that it has already announced the final order and it would not be proper to let the CBI argue again. “Why don’t you file a review petition against the main judgment? You can raise this plea and other issues also in your review,” it told Salve.
Meanwhile, a CBI spokesperson said, “The CBI shall study the order of the Honourable Supreme Court in the Uphaar case and take a decision on the filing of review petition.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her daughter Unnati (17) and son Ujjwal (13) in the June 13, 1997 incident and has been spearheading the legal battle for the victims, said that they would continue fighting against the verdict.
“If the Delhi government has any respect for a human life, it should refuse to accept the Rs 60 crore that Ansals need to pay as fine. They should send it back to the judiciary and let them decide what they want to do with it,” Krishnamoorthy added.