Apex court orders jail for Ansals (Lead)

September 10th, 2008 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday cancelled the bails of real estate tycoon Ansal brothers and ordered jail for them till disposal of their appeals against their conviction for their murderous lapses in the June 1997 Uphaar theatre fire tragedy.A bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice G.S. Singhvi, which initially ordered “forthwith” arrest of Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal, however, granted them time till 4 p.m. Thursday to surrender before the trial court at Patiala House to be taken into custody and sent to Tihar Jail.

The bench granted them time to surrender on a last-minute, fervent plea made by their counsel Fali S. Nariman.

While cancelling the Ansal brothers’ bail, granted to them by the Delhi High Court, pending their appeal against their conviction and two-year jail term in the Uphaar fire tragedy case, the bench also directed the high court to dispose their appeals “expeditiously.”

The bench, also cancelled the bails of two former employees of the Ansals, Uphaar theatre managers Ajit Chaudhary and Nirmal Singh Chopra, on a joint plea by the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The joint plea alleged that out on bail, the two brothers were manipulating the judicial system and causing delay in disposal of their appeal by the high court.

The CBI, which initially had sought cancellations of only Uphaar theatre former managers’ bails, had on Monday adopted AVUT’s plea for cancellations of Ansal brothers’ bail as well.

The apex court ruling spells “a great solace” to Uphaar theatre fire victims, as despite the tragedy claiming 59 lives, including those of 22 children, and injuring over 100 others, more than 11 years ago, only one of the two Ansal brothers was taken in custody and that too for a meagre 40 days till now.

“It’s a great solace to the Uphaar victims as the two brothers have been successfully evading arrest till now. Only Sushil Ansal was arrested in the wake of the incident and remained in jail for around 40 days, but Gopal Ansal was never arrested,” said AVUT president Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who has been spearheading a tireless judicial fight for justice to victims.

Earlier during arguments, the apex court observed that “it was a blunder on the part of the trial court not to have cancelled the bail” when the destruction of some court documents related to the trial was detected with prima facie involvement of Ansals in the act.

The bench made the observation as Ansals’ counsel U. Lalit, denying Ansal’s role in tempering of evidence, contended that his clients were not benefited by the destruction of the particular documents.

Lalit made the contention in response to the plea by CBI counsel, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who sought cancellation of Anals’ bail also on the ground of their suspected role in the destruction of evidence in the trial court.

After cancelling the bails of Ansal brothers and two of his former employees, the court proceeded to fix a time schedule for the Delhi High Court to dispose the appeals of various convicts in the fire tragedy.

The bench at one point of time contemplated fixing a deadline of five to eight working weeks for the Delhi High Court to dispose the appeals through day-long hearings by a dedicated special bench for the purpose.

But owing to practical problems in fixing the time schedule, the bench eventually sought “expeditious” disposal of trial, possibly within five to six months.

The bench, however, asked the high court to constitute a special dedicated bench to hear the appeals of all the 12 convicts in the case.

The convicts include the capital’s erstwhile power distribution firm, Delhi Vidyut Board employees B.M. Satija, A.K. Ghera and Beer Singh, besides Uphaar theatre gatekeeper Mamohan Uniyal. The four are currently serving terms in Tihar Jail.

Those out on bail till now include, besides the Ansal brothers, their former managers Chaudhary, Chopra and Radha Kishan Sharma. Others on bail are H.S. Panwar, a former employee of Delhi Fire Service, and N.D. Tiwari and Shyam Sunder Sharma of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

The apex court cancelled the bail of the two Ansal brothers and their two former managers Monday.

Sharma, a septuagenarian, has been granted bail on medical grounds.

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