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Uphaar case: HC notice to Ansals

January 10, 2008 23:00 IST

Uphaar cinema owners Sushil and Gopal Ansals were on Thursday issued a notice by the Delhi High Court, which admitted a petition by victims' families seeking enhancement of their punishment in the 1993 fire tragedy.

The notice comes within a week of the court granting them bail and ordering suspension of their two-year jail term. Apart from the Ansal brothers, the court also issued notices to three other convicts and the CBI.

Admitting the petition of victims' families, seeking enhancement of the five convicts' jail term, Justice H R Malhotra said, "Show cause notice be issued for January 21 against all the six respondents."

Besides, Ansal brothers other convicts who have been directed to respond include MCD officials, S S Sharma and N D Tiwari, and Delhi Fire Service employee, H S Panwar, who were also sentenced to two years' jail term by the trial court.

Arguing for the AVUT, senior advocate K T S Tulsi said the trial court had erred in convicting the cinema owners and three others under milder penal provisions dealing with criminal negligence.

He said there was enough evidence to sentence them under harsher provisions under section 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC, which attracts a maximum punishment of 10 years' jail.

"I can satisfy this court that the trial court, even after concluding that convicts had prior knowledge of implications of their negligent acts, did not sentence them under harsher penal provisions," Tulsi said.

Additional solicitor general P P Malhotra said the victims' appeal be heard on a priority and be listed before the convicts' appeal, which was allowed by the court.

The matter, which was on Wednesday listed before Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, was on Thursday referred to this court by Chief Justice M K Sharma.

The AVUT had approached the High Court on Tuesday seeking enhancement of the two-year jail sentence awarded to the Ansal brothers and three others convicts.

The AVUT alleged that the Ansal brothers were at the helm of affairs of theatre when the incident took place and had carried out structural modifications in its balcony for increasing the seating capacity with prior knowledge that their acts may result in such a disaster.

The trial court had convicted all the 12 accused under various provisions of the IPC for causing death of 59 cinegoers who were asphyxiated during the screening of a Hindi blockbuster Border inside Uphaar cinema on June 13, 1997.

Apart from the Ansal brothers and three others who were sentenced to two years' imprisonment, seven other convicts were sentenced to seven years' jail.

Radha Krishan Sharma, N S Chopra, Ajit Chowdhary (Uphaar managers), Manmohan Unniyal (cinema's gatekeeper), Brij Mohan Satija, A K Gera and Bir Singh (all DVB officials were handed down seven years' jail term.

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