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SC asks Gopal Ansal to surrender by March 20 in Uphaar fire tragedy

The Supreme Court refused on Thursday to strike down the jail term of Delhi-based builder Gopal Ansal, who has been sentenced to one-year imprisonment for a fire in south Delhi’s Uphaar Cinema that killed 59 people 20 years ago.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel refused to entertain Gopal’s plea despite his counsel and senior advocate Ram Jethmalani submitting that his client was “almost a dead man” broken by disease, including cerebral atrophy.

A three-judge bench said, “The appeal filed by Gopal Ansal is dismissed”. With the apex court dismissing his plea, Gopal Ansal will have to serve the remaining period of the one-year sentence.

Jethmalani said he would not be available on March 9 and 10 as he has to go to Pune for teaching assignment and the bench can fix Gopal’s appeal for hearing immediately after the reopening of the apex court post-Holi vacation on March 20.

Justice Gogoi, in a 2:1 majority verdict on February 9, had granted relief to 76-year-old Sushil Ansal considering age-related complications by awarding him jail term already undergone and had asked Gopal to surrender in four weeks to serve the remaining jail term.

Gopal had thereafter filed a plea in the apex court seeking modification of its order on the grounds of parity, saying he was 69 years old and would suffer irreparable damage to his health if sent to prison.

Earlier, the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) moved the apex court seeking modification of the order sentencing Sushil Ansal to the period already undergone by him in jail in the case.

In its application, Neelam Krishnamoorthy-led AVUT has said both Sushil and Gopal Ansal are healthy and should be sent to jail to serve the remaining sentence in the case.

“No evidence or material was ever placed on record, either in the course of the appeals or the review petitions, by Sushil Ansal that suggests that he is having any medical complication(s),” the association has said in its application.

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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