22.10.2007: The judgment will be pronounced on 20.11.2007
21.09.2007: The excerpts of the judgment passed by Hon’ble Justice S N Dhingra.
“This case has been going on for arguments for more than a year. The accused had ample opportunity, after conclusion of the arguments in October 2006 by the Spl. PP, to prepare the written arguments and submit the same before concluding their oral arguments. If the accused had any intension to file written submission at that stage the law did permit the accused for the same. Had the accused filed the written submission at the time of concluding the oral arguments the Public Prosecutor/Spl. Public Prosecutor in rebuttal would have been able to meet the same or would have filed his written submission in response on record. Once the arguments are concluded by both the sides and even rebuttal is over and the case is fixed for judgment the court cannot allow placing on record written submission by either of the parties.”
“The record of the proceedings as maintained by the court in the order-sheet is considered conclusive and truthful. This court cannot entertain a submission about the incorrectness of judicial record, nor the court, on the basis of affidavit of an advocate can disbelieve the record of the proceedings in the court. If this is allowed, the entire judicial system shall crumble and in any case, when an advocate seeks to malign the court or feels inconvenient, may file his affidavit that the order sheet does not reflect true record of the proceedings and what he states in the affidavit was the true record of the proceedings. No Court can function if the superior Courts start disbelieving the record of the proceedings as recorded by the trial court on the ground of affidavits of the advocates. I consider that this argument is not worth considering.”
“The fairness to the accused /petitioner does not mean that all request of petitioner/accused must be accepted by the trial court and the procedure as laid down in Cr PC be given a go by… Fair trail does not mean to concede to every request of adjournment and cover an extra mile by taking written arguments on record even when the stage is over and the case is fixed for delivery of judgment.”
“The objection of the petitioners about the opportunity given to Special Public Prosecutor to address the court after the petitioners arguments were over, have been dealt with by the trial court in detailed order. The same is not subject matter of challenge before this court. I consider that the petitioners cannot be allowed to keep this case hanging by permitting them to have another round of oral arguments.”
“I find no jurisdictional error or legal infirmity in the order dated 05.09.2007 by the trial court. I find no force in this petition, same is hereby dismissed.”
Details and chronology of the Uphaar criminal trial follows…
CBI CASE NO:RC-3(S)/97/CBI/SIC-IV/NEW DELHI
Sushil Ansal &ors
V/s State through CBI
NAME OF THE ACCUSED
1.Sushil Ansal: Owner/Licensee
( Sec 304A,337,338r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
2. Gopal Ansal: Owner/Licensee
( Sec 304A,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
3.R.M.Puri: Director-Ansal Theatres & Clubotels (P) Ltd.
(Expired on 09.01.2005)
4.K.L. Malhotra: Dy. G.M. -Uphaar Cinema
( Expired on 04.05.2004)
5.Radha Kishan Sharma: Manager- Uphaar Cinema.
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
6.Nirmal Singh Chopra: Asst. Manager-Uphaar Cinema
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
7.Ajit Choudhary: Manager -Uphaar Cinema.
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 cinematograph Act)
8.Manmohan Unniyal: Gatekeeper- Uphaar Cinema
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
9.Brij Mohan Satija:Inspector- Delhi Vidyut Board
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC)
10.Anand Kumar Gera:Inspector- Delhi Vidyut Board
(Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC)
11.Bir Singh: Sr. Fitter- Delhi Vidyut Board
( Sec 304,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC)
12.S.N. Dandona:Executive Engineer- PWD
(Expired on 28.08.2002)
13.Shyam Sunder Sharma:Administrative Officer-MCD
(Sec 304A,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC)
14.N.D. Tiwari:Administrative Officer-MCD
(Sec 304A,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC)
15.Har Swarup Panwar:Divisional Officer- DFS
(Sec 304A,337,338 r/w Sec 36 IPC & Sec 14 Cinematograph Act)
16. Surinder Dutt: Station Officer- DFS
(Expired on 15.03.2002)
CHRONOLOGY OF UPHAAR CRIMINAL CASE
13.06.1997: Fifty nine people died of Asphyxia in the worst ever cinema disaster in the country due to fire at Uphaar cinema in New Delhi. The FIR was lodged in the Hauz Khas Police Station. The investigation was handed over to crime branch Delhi Police in the third week of June 1997.
22.071997: Sushil and Pranav Ansal were arrested in Mumbai by the Crime branch and brought to Delhi on 23rd of July 1997.
24.07.1997: Govt. takes a suo moto decision of transferring the case from Crime branch to C.B.I.
15.11.1997: CBI files the charge sheet in the MM Brijesh Sethi’s court against 16 accused under various sections including Sushil and Gopal Ansal .
4.01.1999: The case is committed for trail by the MM to the session court exactly after one year one month & eighteen days (No.of hearings 30)
10.03.1999: The case is listed in the court of ASJ L D Malik who heard the matter for 36 hearings during which the CBI completed their arguments and the defense counsel had finished the arguments for 13 out of 16 accused .Ld ASJ L D Malik proceeded on leave on 1st Nov.1999 and subsequently transferred on 3rd Jan.2000.72 hours of precious judicial time was wasted.
10.01.2000: The case is transferred before the Ld ASJ Mamta Sehgal who decided to hear the arguments on charge afresh.
31.07.2000: Criminal writ petition filed by AVUT comes up for hearing in the Delhi High Court before a division bench of Justice Usha Mehra and Justice S N Kapoor. The petition brought the tardiness of the trial to the notice of the Judges. The bench directed the trial court to expedite the framing of charges or otherwise in Uphaar case within two months i.e. by 16th October 2000.
16.08.2000: Arguments begin in ASJ Mamta Sehgal’s court and continued till 24th October on day-to-day basis.
7.11.2000: AVUT criminal writ comes up for hearing in the Delhi high Court before the division bench of Justice Usha Mehra and Justice Ramamurthy. The bench directed the ASJ Mamta Sehgal to complete arguments on framing of charges or otherwise within three weeks and matter was adjourned till Dec 8th 2000.
27.02.2001: The charges are framed against all the 16 accused as per the charge sheet.( No.of hearings 95 )
9.04.2001:The charges are officially framed against all the accused.
REVISION PETITIONS FILED IN THE DELHI HIGH COURT
Accused Sushil Ansal, N S. Chopra Manager Uphaar, S S Sharma & N D Tiwari MCD,H S Panwar DFS, B M Satija,A K Gera & Bir Singh DVB filed revision petition against the lower court order. AVUT also filed a revision petition seeking amendments of the charges from 304 (A) to 304 pertaining to Sushil & Gopal Ansal.
23.05.2001: Recording of evidence in chief of Prosecution Witnesses.
28.08.2001: The criminal revision petition filed by SS Sharma & ND Tiwari was dismissed by Hon’ble Justice RS Sodhi of Delhi High Court. The Hon’ble court observed that the “Ld. Councel for the petitioner, while directing his attention only to the fire caused due to short circuit, has missed the larger aspect of the matter where statutory authorities are required to act in the discharge of their functions to ensure proper compliance of rules and regulations, framed to safeguard against any harm to the public using the facilities. In this case the petitioner gave no objection certificate and certified a Gas chamber to be safe for public use.”
11.09.2001: The criminal revision petition filed by Sushil Ansal & NS Chopra (Manager Uphaar cinema) was dismissed by Hon’ble Justice RC Chopra of Delhi High Court. The court observed that it is prima facie shown on record that Sushil Ansal was the person was in charge and was looking after the cinema on behalf of the owner /Occupier and had permitted the cinema building to be used in contravention of the provision of act. Therefore this court find no infirmity with the impugned order framing charges against petitioner Sushil Ansal under section 304 A /337/338 IPC & sec.14 of cinematograph act 1952. As regards NS Chopra the court observed that the evidence on record prima facie shows that he was one of the managers on duty at the cinema at the time of the incidence and only he was carelessly indifferent to the compliance of rules, regulations and by laws meant for the safety of the patrons. He had also failed to extend any help to the patrons trapped in the balcony at the time of incident. He remained aloof and unconcerned during the period when the patrons in the balcony were crying and shouting for help. He did not issue any instructions to any of the staff on duty to help and assist the patrons in moving out of the balcony. He fully knew that on account of non supply of electricity in the cinema, the balcony had been converted into a black hole and people were unable to find the way out .It was well within the knowledge of the petitioners that the emergency lights as well as public address system in the balcony were out of order for quite some time and no steps has been taken for repair thereof in spite of reports by the subordinate staff. It was also within his knowledge that in view of the obstructions in the second staircase the patrons trapped in the balcony would not be able to move out safely. His act of commission & omission, knowing fully well that deaths were likely to be caused render him liable under section 304 IPC.It can be thus be prima facie assumed that he had knowledge that deaths were likely to be caused but still remained absolutely unconcerned and unresponsive to the situation which he was duty bound to handle. Therefore framing of charge under section 304 IPC against him is justified and calls for no interference by this court.
04.042002: The criminal writ petition filed by AVUT comes up for hearing in Delhi High Court before a Division Bench of Justice BA Khan &Justice VS Aggarwal. The petition brought to the notice of the court that the trial in the case was yet to take off and was proceeding at a snails pace. Statements of the available prosecution witnesses were either not recorded or was deferred for non-availability of Defense Counsel or some other pretext. Adjournments were being granted to Defense lawyers on the one ground or the other resulting in deferring of cross-examination of prosecution witnesses who were otherwise in attendance. Out of 191 prosecution witnesses, only 12 were examined so far.
The Hon’ble high court passed the following order:
-Trial court shall hold trail of the session case 10 days in a month from May 2002
-No adjournment shall be granted for non-availability of defense counsel resulting in deferring of cross examination of the witnesses and in that event it shall be open to trial court to take recourse to various options in terms of section 309 including closure of cross Examination or cancellation of bail of accused.
-Trial court shall also take expeditious steps to complete the trial as far as practicable by 15th of Dec.2002.
13.05.2002: Criminal revision petition filed by Gopal Ansal challenging the trial court order framing charges was dismissed as withdrawn.
14.01.2003: CBI files a petition seeking permission of the court to examine IO RS Khatri to prove the photocopies of the partly torn and not readily available documents in the court records.
20.01.2003: In continuation of the above petition CBI filed another giving the details of the above-mentioned documents
27.01.2003: The Ld ASJ Mamata Sehgal Rejects the application dt 24.11.2001 for release of Uphaar.The Ld ASJ held “it would not be appropriate to handover the possession of the Cinema Hall to the accused at this fag end and the scene of occurrence should be preserved for appreciating the evidence.”
31.01.2003: ASJ Mamta Sehgal orders for an enquiry after the report submitted by the concerned court staff confirming the missing documents & allowing secondary evidence i.e photocopies of the missing documents accompanied by an affidavit from the concerned I.O.
14.02.2003: Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy filed an application under section 439(2) of code of criminal procedure seeking the cancellation of bail granted to the accused persons namely Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal & H S Panwar.The details of the documents missing from the court records are as follows:
- Seizure memo dt 18.7.97 regarding seizure of documents from SS Gupta Addl GM of M/S Ansal Properties & Industries Ltd which was partly torn.
- File of Delhi Fire Service regarding Uphaar Cinema Green Park New Delhi.
- One register i.e occurrence book of control room headquarters DFS.
- Occurrence Book Register of BCP Fire Station, New Delhi.
- Casual Leave register maintained in DFS Headquarters Pg No. 50 deals with the casual leave status of HS Panwar.
- Seizure memo dated 27.08 97 and cheque No. 955725 dated 26.06.95 for Rs. 50 Lacs drawn on PNB signed by Sushil Ansal in his favour.
- Seizure memo dated 18.08.97 along with cheque No.805578 dt 30.11.96 for Rs 1.50 Lacs drawn on PNB signed by Gopal Ansal in favour of Music Shop & cheque No. 805590 dt 20.02.97 for Rs 2,96,550/- in favour of M/S Chancellor Club signed by Gopal Ansal.
- Seizure Memo dated 27.08.97 along with Cheque No. 183618 dated 23.5.96 for Rs. 9711/- in favour of Chief Engineer Water drawn on Syndicate Bank signed by Gopal Ansal.
- File containing minutes of MD’s conference of Uphaar Grand containing 1-40 pages, the pgs missing are 1, 9, 12, 14, 18 & 19 are missing it is relevant to note the missing pages being No. 1, 9 & 12 deal with MD’s conference of various dates being meetings/conferences held on 7th May 97 ,2nd April 97 & 1st May 97. Which indicate the conferences with regard to management of Uphaar Grand held under the chairmanship of Gopal Ansal as MD circulated under the signature Major Ajit Choudhary Mgr Administration.
09.04.2003: Arguments concluded pertaining to cancellation of bail in the trial court and order reserved for 23.04.2003.
29.04.2003: The Ld ASJ Mamta Sehgal rejects the application of AVUT pertaining to cancellation of bail observing:
“I find that the case is at the fag end and only Investigating officer remains to be examined so at this fag end it would not be appropriate to cancel the bail granted to the above three accused persons.”
22.05.2003: CBI moves an application for calling additional witnesses to prove The Minutes of the meetings of Board of Directors, Register of Directors, Register of Members, Register of Share Holders and share transfer register of Ansal Theatre and clubotels. The names of the additional witnesses are:
- Pranav Ansal S/O Sushil Ansal
- Kusum Ansal W/O Sushil Ansal
- Divya Ansal W/O Deepak Ansal
- Ritu Ansal W/O Gopal Ansal
- Kushagra Ansal S/O Deepak Ansal
- Karun Ansal S/O Deepak Ansal
- V K Aggarwal Director
- Subhash Verma Ex Director
11.02.2004: AVUT has filed an application under section 319 for summoning Jt CP AMOD KANTH as an accused. (Notice issued to CBI for reply on 23rd Feb 2004).
20.02.2004: All the revision petition filed against the lower court order for framing of charges were dismissed by the Delhi High Court.
14.07.2004: After listening to the arguments to the application filed by AVUT for summoning Amod Kant as an accused under section 319 the learned court had passed the following order in “In the interest of fair trial the matter may be considered at the time of final arguments.”
04.09.2004: Recording of statement of Accused Sushil Ansal under section 313 begins
12.10.2004: Application moved by Sushil Ansal for deletion of certain questions put to him under section 313 by the court relating to marked documents.
23.12.2004: The Hon’ble ASJ Mamta Sehgal while rejecting the application of the Accused for deletion of questions put to him by the court has also exhibited all the earlier marked documents and the Government documents which were maintained in normal course of business as well as some of the documents seized by the IO which were under the control of accused.
10.01.2005: The Accused Sushil Ansal moves Hon’ble High Court New Delhi against the Trial Court order dt.23.12.2004
19.01.2005 : The Hon’ble Justice R C Jain directs the Trial court to proceed with recording of the statement of the accused and accused persons will be free to raise any objection in regard to either lack of proof or non –admissibility of the documents.
01.03.2005: The Hon’ble Justice R C Jain disposed off the application filed by Sushil Ansal with the direction that objection if any will be made at the time of the final arguments.
05.11.2005: Recording of statement of defense witnesses commenced
07.03.2006 : AVUT files a Crl. Misc. Application in Crl. Misc (Main Petition No. 2380/2003) in the Hon’ble High Court under section 482 of the code of criminal Procedure praying for directions for registration of a criminal case against offenders for tampering with documents in the court custody.
05.05.2006 : The Hon’ble High Court passed following order :
“Delhi Police is called upon to register a case under appropriate provision of law in regard to the incident of removal/tampering with/ mutilation of the documents from the judicial records of the trial court. After the registration of the FIR, investigation shall be entrusted to an officer not below the rank of ACP who will conduct the investigation expeditiously and endeavor to conclude the same within a period three months from the date of this order. A status report shall be filed by the investigating agency before the next date of hearing i.e. 8th August 2006.”
17.05.2006: An FIR is lodged by Delhi Police under Sec. 109/193/201/218/409/ 120B IPC under the directions of the High Court
02.08 2006: Defense Evidence closed (only 3 defense witnesses were produced in a span of 10 months.)
09.08.2006: Uphaar inspected by Ms Mamta Sehgal ASJ
02.09.2006: Copies of Inspection report given to all the parties.
26 to 28th -09- 06:Mr. Harish Salve (Former Solicitor General of India) concludes the final arguments for CBI
06.01.2007: Mr. KTS Tulsi files the written submission on behalf of AVUT in pursuance of the trial court order dated 19.12.2006
14.02.2007: Defense counsels commenced their final arguments. Defense arguments concluded on behalf of:
- S S Sharma –MCD
- N.D. Tiwari -MCD
- B M Satija – DVB
- H S Panwar – DFS
18.5.2007: AVUT moves Delhi High Court seeking directions to complete the trial within a time frame and direct the Ld trial court to initiate appropriate action against the accused persons, including cancellation of their bail, if it is found that they are deliberately causing the delay in the trial.
“Directed that now onwards there shall be strict compliance of the directions being given by this court. The directions of this court should not be disregarded lightly. In case for certain unavoidable reasons it is found not possible to adhere to the time schedule fixed by the high court for the disposal of any case, the trial court must communicate to the high court the reasons thereof and seek extension of time granted by this court.
The hearings in the trial shall commence not at 2 pm in the afternoon but at 10 am in the morning. Taking into account the time estimates given by the learned counsels themselves, the trial is required to be completed on or before 31st August, 2007.
Since we have reiterated the directions of order dated 4th April,2002 no adjourments shall be granted due to non availability of counsels. The trial will also go on day to day basis commencing 2nd July, 2007.”
02.07.2007: Arguments advanced on behalf of A-1 Sushil Ansal by Mr.R K Naseem and Mr.Rakesh Dewedi.Arguments concluded on 13.07.2007.
16.07.2007:Arguments advanced on behalf of A-2 Gopal Ansal by Mr Prem Kumar.Arguments concluded on 25.07.2007.
26.07.2007: Arguments advanced on behalf of A-5 R K Sharma A-6 N S Chopra & A-7 Ajit Choudhary (Managers).Arguments concluded on 03.08.2007.
06.08.2007:Arguments advanced on behalf of A-10 A K Gera (DVB).Arguments concluded on 07.08.2007.
06.08.2007: An application moved under section 234 & 235 Cr PC praying on behalf of accused persons that in the event the Ld Prosecutor makes any prayer for making submission of any point of law raised by the accused persons through their pleader to analyse the request and permit arguments to the limited extent in respect of that or those points of law for which the Hon’ble Court feels that there is need to seek clarifications or elaboration.
08.08.2007:Arguments advanced and concluded on behalf of A-8 Manmohan Unniyal ( Gatekeeper)
Note:Arguments concluded by the Defence Councels on behalf of all the accused on 08.08.2007.
09.08.2007: Arguments heard on behalf of all the parties to the application moved under section 234 & 235 Cr PC .
13.08.2007:Order passed by the Ld.ASJ Mamta Sehgal on the above application. ” I find that there is no specific directions that the prosecutor cannot be given oppurtunity to explain certain documents referred to during the arguments and no new case is being set up.It is only a reference to the documents in law”. “In the interest of justice Ld Prosecutor can argue the matter in reference to the arguments i.e. on law points and also refer to the documents which he wants to show.”
09.08.2007:Rejoinder advanced by CBI by Mr Y K Saxena Spl PP and concluded by Sr Advocate Mr Harish Salve on 20.08.2007.
21.09.2007: Order passed by Ld.ASJ Mamta Sehgal ” Now to come up on 05.09.2007 for Judgment.
05.09.2007:Order passed by Ld.ASJ Mamta Sehgal. ” The present case contains thousands of pages of evidence and documents and it requires more time to announce the judgment”.
“Now the provision of section 314 Cr PC will not apply as there is no provision of rebuttal to rebutal.Hence, the application moved on behalf of accused Sushil Ansal for filing written submission is not maintainable and is hereby rejected.Since application has been decided written submission cannot be considered to be part of the application and cannot be placed on record. Now to come up on 22.10.2007 at 10.30 am for announcing the date for final judgement”
17.09.2007:An application moved in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi by Sushil Ansal,Gopal Ansal,N S Chopra,R K Sharma & Ajit Choudhary challenging the trial court order 5th Sept 2007.
19.09.2007:Arguments heard on behalf of all the accused and CBI. Order reserved.
TOTAL NUMBER OF HEARINGS FOR THE YEAR 2006: 32 THE NUMBER EXPECTED, AS PER THE HIGH COURT ORDER: 110
TOTAL NUMBER OF HEARINGS TILL JUNE 2007: 32