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Uphaar fire tragedy: Supreme Court sends Gopal Ansal to serve one-year jail term

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered one year in jail for city-based builder Gopal Ansal who with his elder brother, Sushil, owned a south Delhi cinema hall where a fire killed 59 people 20 years ago.

The apex court, in a majority verdict of 2:1, asked Gopal Ansal to surrender within four weeks to serve the remaining jail term of the one year punishment.

The court was hearing a plea seeking review of the 2015 order in the Uphaar fire tragedy case asking real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal to serve a two-year jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each as fine.

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel passed the order on separate review petitions filed by the CBI and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy against a 2015 judgment of the Supreme Court which had allowed the Ansals to walk free after directing them to pay a total compensation of Rs. 60 crore. The then Bench led by Justice Anil Dave had found that there was nothing “fruitful” in sending the duo to jail.

The majority decision was passed by Justices Gogoi and Kurian. Justice Goel dissented in favour of the 2015 judgment. Both Justices Kurian and Goel were part of the earlier Bench led by Justice Dave, who has retired.

The majority verdict pronounced by Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Kurian Joseph said that fine of Rs. 30 crore each imposed on Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal by the apex court earlier was “not excessive”.

The majority verdict was passed by Justices Gogoi and Joseph while Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was in minority.

The apex court delivered the judgement on the pleas of CBI and the victims’ body seeking a review of the 2015 verdict in the case asking Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal to serve a two-year jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each as fine.

On Thursday, the court did not allow the review petitions of the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) and the CBI.

Reacting to the verdict, Neelam Krishnamoorthy of AVUT said, “Extremely disappointed. The biggest mistake in my life was coming to court. Lost faith in judiciary. Have been let down very badly, a futile exercise. The rich and powerful enjoy special powers.”

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