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SC declines to extend Gopal Ansal’s surrender date


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New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Uphaar theatre owner Gopal Ansal, who was asked to surrender to undergo the remaining part of his sentence for the 1997 fire tragedy, failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi refused to extend the date for surrender and posted the matter for Thursday. Gopal Ansal was to surrender by March 9 to serve the remaining seven months in jail as he has been in prison for four months previously.

Gopal Ansal is the co-accused along with his brother Sushil Ansal in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case of 1997 in which 59 persons were killed.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani requested the court to postpone the hearing in the case after the nine-day Holi break and till then Gopal Ansal’s surrender date be extended.

The bench denied Jethmalai’s request, and said the matter would be heard on Thursday.

Arguing that he does not want to undergo the remaining part of his one-year sentence, Gopal Ansal had moved the court seeking parity with elder brother Sushil Ansal, who was let off with the sentence he has already served.

Senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, appearing for the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), opposed Gopal Ansal’s plea. The lawyer said review pleas of the CBI and the association have already been decided and there cannot be a review of the review judgement.

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.

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 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.

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