Uphaar cinema fire: Ansals told to appear before court in ‘evidence tampering’ case

Written by Anindya Thakuria | New Delhi | Published:May 28, 2017 1:46 am
Inside the Uphaar cinema. Tashi Tobgyal

In a case related to alleged tampering of evidence in the Uphaar cinema fire case, a city court Saturday asked all accused to appear before it on the next dates of hearing — August 16 and 18. Uphaar cinema proprietors Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, along with five others —  Anoop Singh, Prem Prakash Batra, Harswaroop Panwar, Dharamveer Malhotra and a court employee, Dinesh Chandra Sharma — are accused of tampering with evidence in the case, which has been pending since 2006.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass observed that if any exemption is to be sought on medical grounds, the accused will have to submit supporting medical reports along with the exemption application. A fire had broken out at the theatre on June 13, 1997, killing 59 people and injuring over 100. Neelam Krishnamurthi of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy said Sushil Ansal has not appeared in any of the hearings for a year, and has always sought an exemption from appearance citing professional commitments, and not medical grounds.

In 2003, a trial court had ordered an inquiry after some case documents went missing from the court record room. After an inquiry, Sharma, the court employee, was dismissed. In May, 2014, the court had ordered framing of charges against seven accused, including the Ansal brothers, on charges of abetment of the offence, causing disappearance of evidence, criminal breach of trust by a public servant and criminal conspiracy.

On May 12 this year, the Delhi High Court cleared the way for a trial in the case when it refused to quash the charges. Meanwhile two employees of the Ansals, Deepak Kathpalia and Praveen Shankar Sharma, who had allegedly threatened Krishnamurthi, tendered their unconditional apology to her in court. Krishnamurthi claimed the two had threatened her in 2007. She told the court that she will consult her lawyer before responding to the apology. The next hearing is on June 6.

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