Gopal Ansal surrendered on Monday before Tihar jail authorities to undergo one-year jail term in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case after the Supreme Court refused to grant him more time. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul rejected the plea moved by the real estate baron seeking more time to surrender on the ground that he has moved a mercy plea before the President, and had asked him to surrender by this evening.
“Ansal surrendered around 5-5.30 PM. He is currently lodged in the hospital at Jail No. 3 as he complained of some health issues,” said a jail official.
The bench said, “Sorry, we can’t,” when senior advocate Ram Jethmalani mentioned the matter and sought more time, telling the court that they have already approached the President with their mercy plea.
The apex court also rejected the plea from the senior advocate seeking a direction for speedy disposal of his mercy plea, pending before the President, saying that it cannot interfere in it as it is an exclusive jurisdiction of the President.
The apex court, on March 9, had dismissed Ansal’s petition for parity with his elder brother Sushil Ansal, who was awarded jail term already undergone by him considering his “age-related complications”, and directed him to surrender by today to serve the prison term.
69-year-old Gopal Ansal was in jail earlier for around four-and-a-half-month in connection with the case relating to the June 13, 1997 fire tragedy in which 59 persons had died in Uphaar cinema during the screening of Hindi movie ‘Border’.
Over 100 people were injured in the subsequent stampede.
A bench headed by Justice Gogoi, in a 2:1 majority verdict on February 9, had granted relief to 76-year-old Sushil Ansal considering age-related complications by awarding him the jail term already undergone and had asked Gopal to surrender in four weeks to serve the remaining jail term.
Gopal had thereafter approached the apex court seeking modification of its order on the grounds of parity, saying he was 69-year-old and would suffer irreparable damage to his health if sent to prison.
In its February 9 judgement, the apex court had upheld the fine of Rs 30 crore each imposed on both the convicts and said it should be utilised for setting up a trauma centre.
Earlier, a two-judge bench of the apex court had on March 5, 2014 held Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty, but differed on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to them after which the matter was heard by a three-judge bench.
The Delhi High Court had on December 19, 2008 awarded one-year jail term to both Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the case while reducing the two-year sentence imposed on them by the trial court.