Court order refusing relief to Ansals in Uphaar evidence tampering case not perverse: HC told
New Delhi, Jan 19 (PTI) The Delhi Police Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that the orders convicting real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the Uphaar cinema evidence tampering case and refusing to release them during the pendency of the subsequent appeal were neither perverse nor shocking to warrant any intervention.
Special public prosecutor (SPP) Dayan Krishnan urged Justice Subramonium Prasad, who was hearing petitions by the Ansal brothers and another convicted person Anoop Singh Karayat for suspension of the seven-year sentence, to not interfere with the trial court orders.
He said that the evidence tampering case is related to the public confidence in the judicial system.
"A reading of the judgements of the trial court (on conviction) and the appellate court (on refusal to suspend sentence) does not give a feeling that it is perverse and shocking to require interference," the SPP said.
The senior advocate argued that the accused persons' mutilated vital documents which formed part of the trial record in the main Uphaar cinema case with the belief that they “would not be caught” in order to save themselves from any liability.
The judge said that in a case that has been going on for a long time, justice must be swift if it is found that tampering was done and the appeals have to be decided quickly by the sessions court.
"The issue is if, in the meantime, the persons who are found guilty by one court should be out," he added.
The SPP, who concluded his submissions on petitions, opposed the release of the convicted persons and said that the pandemic cannot be the basis to allow the petitioners' prayer as till date, no policy decision has been taken by the concerned authorities on the release of inmates due to COVID-19 and no special place can be carved out for them. The court said it would hear Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) on the next date of hearing i.e January 20.
Justice Prasad also asked the counsel appearing for the petitioners to answer in their rejoinder submissions how the court should deal with a case that involves tampering of “record inside the court” by the “rich and powerful”.
Advocate Tarun Chandiok, appearing for Karayat, said that his client was neither powerful nor rich and stands on a different footing from the Ansals.
The SPP argued that the instant matter pertained to the post-conviction stage and no relief should be granted to any of the convicts. On the last occasion, the Delhi Police had contended that there was no presumption of innocence in favour of Ansals who mutilated “vital documents” and forced the prosecution to record the secondary evidence in the main case which resulted in an enormous delay of trial court proceedings.
It had claimed that the Ansals, who hatched a conspiracy with other co-accused to “secure advantage” in the main trial, are still taking the benefit of the delay as they are now seeking suspension of sentence on account of their old age.
The Ansals and Karayat had filed petitions before the high court for suspension of their seven-year jail terms in the evidence tampering case after a sessions court here, in December, rejected their plea to suspend the conviction by a magisterial court and refused to release them on bail.
Senior advocate Arvind Nigam, representing Sushil Ansal, had contended that the “mutilated” documents were not even relevant to his culpability in the main Uphaar trial and his conviction in the evidence tampering case was a “travesty of justice”.
He had highlighted that Sushil Ansal was over 80 years of age and suffered from various ailments.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Gopal Ansal, had also argued that his client was over 70 years of age and the court should exercise its wide and liberal discretion to release him.
The court was also informed that in the main case, the petitioners were convicted and sentenced to a 2-year jail term by the Supreme Court which subsequently released them on payment of Rs 30 crore fine each after taking into account the prison time they had done.
While dismissing Ansals' plea for suspension of sentence till the appeal against the conviction by a magisterial court is decided, the sessions court had said that the case was one of the gravest of its kind and the offence appeared to be the outcome of a calculated design on the part of the convicts to interfere with the course of justice.
The sessions court had also refused to suspend the seven-year jail term each to former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and two others -- P P Batra and Anoop Singh Karayat -- in the case and release them on bail.
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 magisterial court had also imposed a fine of Rs 2.25 crore each on the Ansals apart from imposing a seven-year term in the case.
The case was lodged on the direction of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition by AVUT chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy.