Uphaar tragedy: Police told to expedite trial

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Monday issued notice to police on a plea of Uphaar cinema fire victims seeking "expeditious" trial against the Ansal brothers for alleged tampering of evidence.

Justice Veena Birbal also directed Delhi Police to file a status report and posted the matter for Oct 11.

The families and relatives of those who died in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire moved the court seeking direction for speedy trial of the case which is pending before it since 2006.

The accused are theatre owners Gopal Ansal and his brother Sushil Ansal as well as a court employee, Dinesh Chandra Sharma.

The plea said: "Because tampering and mutilation of a judicial file is an egregious offence against the entire justice delivery system and as such the case deserves to be tried expeditiously in a time-bound manner with utmost priority on a day-to-day basis.

"The offence was committed by the Ahlmad of the court, allegedly at the behest of the accused persons (Ansals) along with others.

"Till date, even arguments on charge on behalf of the prosecution have not been concluded due to frequent adjournments sought by the defence counsel," the plea added.

The evidence-tampering case is pending in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Amit Bansal.

On June 13, 1997, when the Hindi film "Border" was being screened, a fire engulfed the theatre, killing 59 people and injuring over 100.

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.

Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal 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 Delhi High Court ordered police to register a case in this regard on May 5, 2006 and ordered it to complete the investigations in three months.

The police arrested Dinesh Sharma and later filed a chargesheet naming the Ansal brothers and two others as accused.