CBI supports plea for cancellation of Ansals’ bailSeptember 8th, 2008 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday supported the June 1997 Uphaar cinema fire victims’ plea before the Supreme Court to cancel the bail of the Ansal brothers.Property developers Gopal and Sushil Ansal have been granted bail by Delhi High Court pending their appeals against their conviction and two year jail for their lapses leading to the fire tragedy, which claimed 59 lives, including those of 22 children. Over 100 others were injured in the June 13, 1997 mishap.
The CBI supported the plea for cancellation of the Ansals’ bail during the hearing of a lawsuit of the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) by a bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice G.S. Singhvi.
AVUT president Neelam Krishnamoorthy has moved the apex court for cancellation of the bail alleging that the two brothers, out on bail, were manipulating the judicial system and causing delay in disposal of their appeal by the high court.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the CBI, supported AVUT’s plea for cancellation of bail after the bench asked him if the agency was not supporting the plea.
The CBI’s plea for cancellation of bail of two former managers of the theatre, Ajit Chaudhary and N.S. Chopra, is also pending with the apex court.
Responding to the bench’s query, Salve categorically said: “We absolutely support the plea.”
Salve said the agency had even opposed the Ansals’ bail plea even before the high court and was not convinced of the reason on which they were granted bail.
He said the high court had granted them the bail saying they were not directly responsible for committing the negligence, which triggered the fire.
Salve said he had objected to the grant of bail because Ansals had “flouted every rule on the book solely for commercial profit”.
Recalling that not a single death in the fire tragedy had taken place on the ground floor of the theatre, he said one of the exits of the balcony at the first floor had been closed as an extra row of chairs was inserted there blocking the way out.
Salve said Ansals had also opened “an illegal carpet shop” at the first floor of the theatre, and the burning carpets, wrapped in plastic covers, produced acrid fumes, which were sucked into the balcony by air-conditioning ducts, resulting in deaths due to asphyxiation.
The bench earlier asked him why the CBI did not challenge the Ansals’ conviction under a milder offence of committing criminal negligence rather than that of committing unintentional killings.
Salve explained that this would have given the Ansals another chance to take the case against them back to the trial court to seek a new round of lengthy litigation on the grounds that they were not earlier cross-examined there under the charges of the graver offence of unintentional killing.
The bench earlier contemplated fixing a time schedule for the high court to dispose of the appeals by the Ansal brothers and others within five weeks with a special judge deputed to hear the matter for the entire day till the disposal of the appeals.