Prosecution colluding with accused in Uphaar case?

By Rana Ajit


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New Delhi : The Uphaar case related to the death of 59 people in a fire at a cinema theatre in 1997 has taken a new turn with a front for victims alleging collusion between Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) prosecution counsel and the accused Ansal brothers.

The accusation was made in a complaint lodged Wednesday by Neelam Krishnamurthy of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) with CBI Special Director M.L. Sharma.

Krishnamurthy complained of a nexus between the CBI's advocates in the Delhi High Court, Harish Gulati and Depti Gulati, and the accused Ansal brothers Sushil and Gopal, who are businessmen and the owners of Uphaar theatre.

She recalled that the Gulatis did not object to Gopal Ansal's plea before the court to go abroad.

The CBI is prosecuting Sushil and Gopal Ansal as well as 14 others in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal.

"We were shocked to find that the Gulatis did not speak a single word to oppose Ansal's plea to go abroad, while two days earlier his colleague Y.K. Saxena (special public prosecutor) had vehemently objected to the plea in the lower court," Krishnamurthy told IANS.

This resulted in Justice B.N. Chaturvedi of the high court permitting Ansal on May 31 to go abroad, said Krishnamurthy in her complaint to the CBI.

Noting the objections raised by Saxena, Judge Sehgal had May 29 dismissed Gopal Ansal's plea to go abroad.

Sehgal had also noted in her order that earlier in December 2006 her court "had directed Gopal Ansal to refrain himself from moving such applications" seeking permission to go abroad.

Krishnamurthy said in her complaint that the Gulatis' silence in the high court on the Ansal plea for going abroad showed the nexus between Ansals and the agency's counsel.

Nearly a decade after the tragedy in the Uphaar theatre in south Delhi, the case is still stuck at the subordinate court level for trial, despite a direction by the high court to have at least 10 hearings every month.

The fire occurred on the first day of the screening of the Hindi film "Border," on June 13, 1997, killing 59 people. Krishnamurthy's two children died in the tragedy.

The allegation of collusion in this case assumes significance in the wake of a TV sting operation purportedly exposing the nexus between the prosecution and defence counsel in the BMW hit-and-run case involving Sanjiv Nanda, the grandson of former naval chief S.M. Nanda.