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Delhi HC reserves order on Ansals’ plea against jail term in Uphaar evidence tampering case

The Delhi High Court on Thursday reserved the order on the plea filed by real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal against their seven-year sentence in the Uphaar tragedy evidence tampering case.

After hearing the arguments of counsel for convicts and for the victims of the Uphaar tragedy, Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved the order and said the court will further hear their appeal against conviction on February 23.

On November 8, 2021, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Court, Dr. Pankaj Sharma, had sentenced Ansals to seven years imprisonment besides imposing a fine of Rs 2.25 crore on both in the evidence tampering case.

During the course of the hearing on Thursday, the bench said: “We will try to pronounce the judgment on the petition before the date of hearing in the trial court. If, in any case, it is not pronounced by then, I will direct the trial court to continue the hearing on appeals.”

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Ansals, submitted that no judicial system considers the primary conviction as final.

“There is a need to adopt a larger view and not a tactical one… it was alleged that I delayed the trial which is not true. We had challenged the summoning order on the charge, even during that period, the trial has not stayed,” he said.

He further submitted with regards to the allegations related to the conspiracy of tampering with evidence, “there is no direct evidence of tampering. The only ground was that I would be the beneficiary of delay”.

“If all the documents were intact and exhibited before the court, then what led to this delay is questionable, he added.

On January 11, the Delhi Police had told the High Court that Ansals cannot take advantage of their old age in their plea seeking suspension of their jail terms.

Delhi Police’s counsel, advocate Dayan Krishnan also submitted that the duo had made every attempt to delay the trial in the matter during the course of hearing in the matter before a bench of Justice Prasad.

Meanwhile, senior advocate N. Hariharan, appearing on behalf of Gopal Ansal, argued that delay was not caused due to alleged conspiracy as the court had allowed the secondary evidence to be placed in the case.

“Delays were due to legal challenges and that was the right of the accused, still the proceedings at the trial court continued.”

On the other hand, advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, counsel for the petitioner, argued that the “prosecuting agency took adjournment 226 times, it was the prosecution not the accused who took these adjournments. Sushil Ansal took only 12 adjournments while Gopal Ansal took only 15”.

He also submitted before the court that the lungs of the petitioner were affected during the subsequent waves of Covid.

“In view of the age, situation, ailment of the petitioner, the sentence should be suspended during the pendency of the appeal,” Dubey said.

On June 13, 1997, halfway through the screening of the Hindi film “Border”, a fire broke out in the Uphaar cinema, located in Green Park in south Delhi, killing 59 people in one of the worst tragedies in the country.

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