A Delhi court has granted two-day interim bail to a convict in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy on grounds that there was no elderly male member in the family to make arrangements for his niece’s engagement ceremony.

Additional Sessions Judge Anil Antil granted relief to Dinesh Chand Sharma, a former court staff, sent to jail along with real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal and others by a magisterial court earlier this month. Sharma had been awarded a seven-year jail term for tampering with evidence in the 1997 case of Uphaar cinema fire which had claimed 59 lives.

The relief was granted on Sharma’s application that claimed that there was no elderly male member in the family to make arrangements for already scheduled ceremony. He sought to be released for a limited period of seven days to attend the said ceremony of his niece.

It had claimed that the woman’s father passed away last month and her grandfather also expired.

The court had called for a status report along with verification report regarding the engagement ceremony as well as death verification report of the persons concerned from the investigating officer (IO), which verified the claims made by Sharma.

During the arguments, the prosecution submitted that it had no objection if the permission was granted to attend the ceremony for a limited period of only a day.

“Therefore, without adverting to the merits of the case, on humanitarian grounds the sentence of conviction of convict Dinesh Chandra Sharma is suspended for two days, i.e., November 21 and 22 and he is allowed to attend the engagement ceremony,” the court said.

The case is related to tampering with the evidence in the main fire tragedy case in which the Ansals were convicted and sentenced to two-year jail term by the Supreme Court.

The apex court, however, released them taking into account the prison time they had done on the condition that they pay 30 crore fine each, to be used for building a trauma centre in the national capital.

A magisterial court on November 8 awarded seven year jail terms to Ansals and Sharma along with individuals P P Batra and Anoop Singh for tempering and other offences.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma also imposed a fine of 2.25 crore on Ansals and three lakh each on other three.

Ansals and Sharma have challenged their conviction and jail term before the sessions court and have also urged the court to suspend their punishment while the pendency of the appeal.

The tampering was detected for the first time on July 20, 2002, and when it was unearthed, a departmental enquiry was initiated against Sharma and he was suspended.

Later an enquiry was conducted and he was terminated from services on June 25, 2004.

The prosecution said that after the termination, the Ansal brothers helped Sharma get employment on a monthly salary of 15,000.

When the case was registered, the documents of the company, where Sharma was employed post suspension, were further tampered with by its chairperson Anoop Singh.

According to the charge sheet, the documents alleged to have been tampered with included a police memo giving details of recoveries immediately after the incident, Delhi Fire Service records pertaining to repair of transformer installed inside Uphaar, minutes of Managing Director’s meetings, and four cheques.

Out of the six sets of documents, a cheque of 50 lakh, issued by Sushil Ansal to self, and minutes of the MD’s meetings, proved beyond doubt that the two brothers were handling the day-to-day affairs of the theater at the relevant time, the charge sheet had said.

The fire had broken out at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997, claiming 59 lives. 

The case was lodged on the direction of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition by AVUT chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy.

(With PTI inputs)

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