Delhi Police on Thursday told a city court that there are chances that accused Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal can flee the country while hearing is on of a case on alleged tampering with evidence in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy.
Public Prosecutor AT Ansari told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Sumit Dass that there is serious apprehension that the Ansal brothers may flee the country during pendency of the present trial.
The court, after hearing the submission of prosecution as well as defence, reserved its order for July 19.
The Delhi Police plea was based on a news article by magazine ‘Tehelka’ that said Sushil Ansal was taking steps to flee the country as he was selling his properties below the circle rates and transferring money to his foreign bank accounts in Britain and Singapore.
Prosecutor Ansari told court that the news article which was published on December 2016 gives rise to serious apprehension that the accused may flee during pendency of the trial.
“There is a substantial change in the circumstances creating reasonable grounds for believing that accused Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal are most likely to flee from the country to avoid the trial of the present case and as such, warranting the prosecution to seek indulgence of this court seeking directions to restraining the accused Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal not to leave country,” prosecutor said.
He requested court to restrain the accused from travelling abroad without the court’s permission.
However, defence counsel Rebecca John opposed the police plea and said the accused are facing trial in the cases since 20 years and have attended court proceedings regularly.
Advocate John said the accused are ready to give an undertaking that they will furnish all details whenever they travel abroad and will not hamper the trial in the case.
She pleaded to the court to dismiss the police plea, saying that it is filed with malafide intentions without validating the genuineness of the news article published in the magazine.
The trial court in 2014 framed charges against seven accused, including the Ansal brothers, under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code — 109 (abetment of offence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy).
Theatre owners Gopal and Sushil Ansal, Anoop Singh, Prem Prakash Batra, Harswaroop Panwar, Dharamveer Malhotra as well as a court employee, Dinesh Chandra Sharma, are accused of tampering with evidence in the case, pending since 2006.
On June 13, 1997, when the Hindi film “Border” was being screened, a fire engulfed the theatre, killing 59 people and left over 100 injured. The fire was sparked by a blast in a transformer in an underground parking lot in the five-storey building which housed the cinema hall and several offices.
A court on Jan 31, 2003 ordered an inquiry after some documents related to the Uphaar case went missing from the court record room. After an inquiry, the judge dismissed a court employee.
The Ansal brothers were granted bail on April 23, 2010 in the case but the court has not imposed any condition regarding permission to travel abroad.
However, the Supreme Court while hearing a separate case related to the Uphaar fire tragedy, has restricted the movement of the accused persons outside the country till disposal of their review petitions.
On February 9, 2017 the Supreme Court finally decided the case and sentenced Gopal Ansal to one year imprisonment.
The Public Prosecutor apprised the court that the review petition has finally been disposed of and thus the Supreme Court’s direction is no longer in force.