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Posted at: Mar 20, 2017, 12:31 PM; last updated: Mar 20, 2017, 9:11 PM (IST)UPHAAR FIRE

Ansal files mercy petition before President; SC refuses to stay surrender

Ansal files mercy petition before President; SC refuses to stay surrender
The Supreme Court had on March 9 dismissed Gopal Ansal’s plea for modification of its February 9 order asking him to surrender in four weeks to serve the one-year sentence.

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20

Realtor Gopal Ansal on Monday told the Supreme Court that he had filed a mercy petition before President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to pardon his one-year sentence in the 1997 Uphaar tragedy case.

Fifty-nine people had died of asphyxia during the screening of Bollywood blockbuster ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997.

On behalf of Gopal Ansal, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani requested a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar to stay the order for his surrender later in the day as he had filed a mercy petition before the President under Article 72 of the Constitution.

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Jethmalani said since the President was not available, the bench should waive the rules of procedure and stay his surrender during pendency of his mercy petition.

But the CJI told him to go to the President. “How can we grant you injunction?” Justice Khehar asked Jethmalani.

When the senior counsel asked the bench to at least ask the President to expedite his decision on the mercy petition, the bench shot back: “How can we tell the President?”

After his last-ditch effort failed, Gopal will have to surrender by Monday evening to serve the remainder of his sentence at Tihar Jail.

The Supreme Court had on March 9 dismissed Gopal Ansal’s plea for modification of its February 9 order asking him to surrender in four weeks to serve the one-year sentence.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi had ordered him to surrender on March 20 to serve the remainder of his sentence.

On behalf of Gopal, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani had said he deserved “a clean acquittal but I am asking only for parity with his brother”--a co-convict who was spared a jail term.

Jethmalani had argued that Gopal was surviving on charity and deserved to be given parity with his brother as his health condition had worsened. But the court wasn’t convinced.

In his plea filed barely days before his date of surrender, Gopal (68) had said that the court could not have denied him the relief extended to his brother Sushil because his medical condition was equally bad. Gopal wanted the court to apply principle of parity in his case on the grounds that he had already spent over four months in custody, more than what his brother had.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on February 9 refused to review its order regarding Sushil Ansal (77), who was let off without any prison term after payment of Rs 30 crore fine in view of his old age and health condition.

Both brothers--owners of Uphaar cinema in South Delhi--have already paid Rs 30 crore each as fine which has to be used for building a trauma centre in Delhi.

By a 2-1 verdict, the bench had said that the principle of parity could not be applied to Gopal as he didn’t have that kind of health problems. 

The period of four months and 20 days for which Gopal remained in jail during the trial was likely to be deducted from the one-year term.

Justice Gogoi and Justice Kurian Joseph had partially reviewed the top court’s earlier order and decided to send Gopal to jail while Justice AK Goyal declined the review.

The top court had earlier held the Ansal brothers guilty of criminal negligence and fined them but didn’t sentence them to further jail term, beyond the period already spent by them in Tihar during the trial.

The CBI and the victims had sought review of the order. The CBI said the court did not give it time to put forth its views leading to “miscarriage of justice”. 

A Delhi trial court had in 2007 sentenced the Ansal brothers to two years in jail. A year later, the Delhi High Court had reduced the sentence by half, forcing the CBI and victims to approach the top court.

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