New Delhi, The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed Uphaar theatre owner Gopal Ansal’s plea not to send him to jail to serve the remaining sentence for the 1997 fire tragedy, but extended his date of surrender by 10 days.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K. Goel asked Gopal Ansal to surrender on March 20 to serve the nearly seven months in jail.
“Appeal dismissed. Accused Gopal Ansal will surrender to serve (the) remaining sentence…,” said the bench.
The bench refused to accept Gopal Ansal’s plea seeking parity with elder brother Sushil Ansal, who was let off with the sentence he has already served.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani appearing for Gopal Ansal even told the court that his “cinema hall has gone” and he was “practically living on some people’s help and charity”.
Gopal Ansal was to surrender by March 9 to serve the remaining sentence in jail. He had earlier served four months of his one-year sentence.
Gopal Ansal is co-accused along with his brother Sushil Ansal in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case in which 59 persons were killed.
The apex court on February 9 sentenced the builder to one year in jail. He said the court could not deny him the same relief extended to Sushil Ansal because his medical condition too was “equally precarious”.
Sushil Ansal’s age and ailments were taken into consideration while not sending him to prison.
Gopal Ansal sought modification of the order which asked him to serve the remaining sentence, citing his hearing impairment due to which he claimed he has fainted several times.
The apex court also dismissed the plea of the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), which opposed Gopal Ansal’s plea.
The court accepted contentions of senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), that review pleas of the CBI and the association have already been decided and there cannot be a review of the review judgement.
Expressing “genuine remorse” for those who died in the “unfortunate tragedy”, Gopal Ansal contended that he had borne the punishment more than he deserved.
The court had said that since Gopal Ansal, 69, did not suffer any age-related complications, as was the case with Sushil Ansal, 77, there could be no principle of parity and he must spend one year in prison.
The Ansals, who co-owned the Uphaar cinema in south Delhi, were held guilty of “criminal negligence” but escaped jail terms beyond a few months after the top court’s 2015 order.
A huge fire broke out at the Uphaar when Hindi movie “Border” was being screened on June 13, 1997. Trapped inside, 59 persons died of asphyxia and over 100 were injured in a stampede.