No urgent hearing on plea for release of sealed Uphaar cinema: Supreme Court

17 Jul

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today declined urgent hearing on a plea seeking release of ill-fated Uphaar theatre, sealed by the CBI, where 59 people had died and over 100 received injuries during screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997.

“There is no urgency. Request is declined,” a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said when theatre owners, Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, sought urgent listing of the appeal seeking release of the sealed cinema hall.

Senior advocate Gopal Jain, representing the theatre owners, said the appeal be listed for hearing.

The CBI, which has probed and prosecuted the two owners in the case, has been opposing the de-sealing and release of the cinema hall.

The agency and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), led by Neelam Krishnamurthy, have been alleging that the plea seeking trial of then IPS officer Amod Kanth, who in the capacity of DCP (Licensing), had allegedly allowed retention of 37 extra seats in the theatre in 1979 in violation of the Cinematography Act, is still pending.

The release of cinema hall may lead to loss of crucial evidence that extra seats had resulted in closure of gangway leading to death of cine-goers, the AVUT has said.

The Supreme Court had on February 9 asked Gopal Ansal to serve one-year jail term while his elder brother Sushil Ansal got relief from incarceration with prison term already undergone by him.

Fifty nine people had died of asphyxia when a fire broke out during the screening of ‘Border’ in Uphaar theatre in the Green Park area of south Delhi on June 13, 1997.

Over a 100 people were injured in the subsequent stampede.

A two-judge bench of the apex court had on March 5, 2014 held Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty, but differed on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to them after which the matter was heard by a three-judge bench.

The Delhi High Court on December 19, 2008 had awarded one-year jail term to both Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the case while reducing the two-year sentence imposed on them by the trial court.