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Monday, June 25, 2018

Tampering of evidence: Delhi HC upholds trial court order in 1997 Uphaar tragedy case

Documents that were part of the judicial file in the trial were destroyed.

Written by Manish Raj | New Delhi | Updated: May 13, 2017 5:42:41 am
 Uphaar cinema tragedy, uphaar tragedy case, uphaar fire case, Delhi HC uphaar case, Delhi HC upholds trial court order, Ansals evidence tampering, Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal, Indian Express Fifty-nine people were killed in the fire. (Express Archive)

QUASHING A review petition in a case relating to the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy, the Delhi High Court Friday upheld the trial court order framing charges of tampering of evidence against real estate barons Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal, D V Malhotra and Anoop Singh. Maintaining that “the trial court had proceeded correctly”, Justice Siddharth Mridul said that at the stage of framing of charges, the trial court had to only find out — on the basis of evidence — whether there was a prima facie case against the accused.

“The material on record gives rise to strong suspicion that the accused persons had committed the offences for which the charges were framed against them,” the court said.

On May 31, 2014, the trial court had framed charges against seven people under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 109 (abetment of offence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC. The four accused had moved court against the charges.

Justice Mridul highlighted that according to the trial court, there was a prima facie case against the accused.

Sushil and Gopal, who were allegedly in financial control of the day-to-day functioning of Uphaar Cinema, and H S Panwar of Delhi Fire Services were facing prosecution in the Uphaar case.

Documents that were part of the judicial file in the trial were destroyed. Dinesh Chandra Sharma — the ahalmad in the court where the main trial was being conducted — was dismissed from service as he was found responsible for destroying the documents.

The investigation also revealed that Sharma was later recommended for a job at A Plus Security agency owned by D V Malhotra — general manager of Star Estate Management Ltd (SEML) — at the behest of the Ansals.

The brothers held a 90 per cent share in SEML and had a contract with the security agency.

After Anoop Singh, the director of the agency, came to know of the investigation, he tampered with the wage register over the remuneration paid to Sharma, the trial court had noted.

Neelam Krishnamoorthy, convener, Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), who lost both her children in the tragedy, told The Indian Express, “Since the chargesheet was filed almost over a decade ago, and not a single prosecution witness had been examined, we hope the trial court would provide day-to-day hearing and conclude the trial in shortest possible time. Since the Ansals have got the benefit of old age in the main trial, we only hope the same magnanimity is not shown to the accused in this case.”

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