Real estate baron Gopal Ansal on Tuesday failed to get any immediate relief from the Supreme Court which fixed for March 3 his plea seeking that he, like his elder brother Sushil Ansal, be not jailed to serve remaining sentence in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case. A bench, by a 2:1 majority verdict delivered on February 9, had given relief to 76-year-old Sushil considering his “advanced age-related complications” by awarding him the jail term already undergone and asked younger sibling Gopal to surrender in four weeks to serve remaining one year jail term in the 20-year-old case.
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Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani mentioned the fresh plea for urgent hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar and also sought an interim relief that Gopal be granted one extra week to surrender in jail.
“You (Jethmalani) will have to wait. It has to be heard by the same bench, if it is existing, which had heard the review. We can put it for Friday if there is no objection,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said. When Jethmalani said that he was willing to argue before any bench, the court said, “There is a system of allocation of benches. We will try our best.”
The period of sentence already undergone should be enough for Gopal also and he be awarded the jail term already undergone, Jethmalani said, adding moreover, the convict also suffered from advanced age-related ailments like his elder brother and should not to be sent to prison. The convict has also paid Rs 30 crore in fine, he said.
Senior advocate K T S Tulsi, appearing for the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) led by Neelam Krishnamoorthy, opposed the plea, saying the review pleas of the CBI and the association have already been decided and “there cannot be a review of the review judgement”.
Lawyer Aparajita Singh, appearing for the CBI, said the remedy available to the convict was to file a curative plea and no fresh application can be filed in a decided review petition. When the court fixed the plea for hearing on March 3, Singh said that senior advocate Harish Salve represents the CBI in the matter and he will not available on Friday. On the date fixed, the bench concerned, at best, will only issue notice, the court said.
59 persons had died of asphyxia in the Uphaar cinema during the screening of Hindi movie ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997. Gopal had filed yesterday the plea seeking modification of the February 9 verdict asking him to surrender for serving a year in jail. He has sought a relief similar to that given to his brother, claiming that he was a 69-year-old and would suffer irreparable damage to his health if sent to prison. The plea has said, “His body and health are more brittle than that of his elder brother.”
It has said Gopal’s case be treated “at par with that of his brother, accused number one Sushil Ansal upon taking on record the medical record enclosed”. “The petitioner at present seeks only one relief, which his brother got without being called upon to prove anything. “If the petitioner had known that he had to establish that he too is suffering the kind of physical ailment for which the sentence already undergone has been found sufficient punishment, he would have had no difficulty in proving that his body and health are more brittle than that of his elder brother,” the petition said.
The apex court had asked Gopal to surrender to serve the remaining prison term. He was in jail earlier for around four-and-a-half months.