A Delhi court Friday convicted real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal for tampering with evidence in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case that killed 59 people.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Pankaj Sharma convicted them under IPC sections 201 (tampering of evidence), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant). Along with the Ansal brothers, the court held two of their employees, PP Batra and Anoop Singh, and former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma guilty.
The CMM has now asked for financial records of the accused while deciding on the quantum of the sentence to be announced Monday.
The court said that the prosecution was able to prove the destruction of evidence. It said the accused while facing trial had destroyed critical documents, “which were capable of proving their complicity in the said case”, “through meticulous planning in order to escape punishment by scuttling trial process and fiddled with our judicial system with great impunity”.
The manner in which they subjected the process of law to “desecration” is “no less defiling the justice administration system,” the court said. It held that their “high handedness” for “securing benefit in the trial sans documents by any means demonstrates the scant regard which they have for the justice delivery system”.
“The brazen attitude of the accused is reflective from their conduct as after the destruction of evidence, they vehemently opposed the prosecution plea for adducing secondary evidence,” the court said.
The court maintained that they “attacked the very purity and sanctity of the justice system” and their misconception that they will get away with their “nefarious design from punishment has been exposed to the world at large”.
The case was lodged on the Delhi High Court’s directions while hearing a petition by AVUT chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy. The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002, and a departmental enquiry was initiated against Sharma. He was suspended and terminated from service on June 25, 2004.
According to the prosecution, the accused tampered with documents including a police memo giving details of recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records pertaining to repair of transformer installed inside Uphaar, minutes of Managing Director’s meetings and four cheques.