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Posted at: Mar 21, 2017, 1:24 AM; last updated: Mar 21, 2017, 1:24 AM (IST)

After no SC relief, realtor Gopal Ansal sent to jail

After no SC relief, realtor Gopal Ansal sent to jail
On June 13, 1997, 59 persons were asphyxiated to death when a fire broke out in the Uphaar theatre. Tribune file photo

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20

Realtor Gopal Ansal’s last-ditch attempt to avoid surrendering to serve one-year sentence in the 1997 Uphaar tragedy case failed on Monday with the Supreme Court refusing to intervene.

On behalf of Gopal, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani requested a three-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, to stay the order for his surrender on the grounds that he had filed a mercy petition before the President under Article 72 of the Constitution seeking pardon.

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 the failure of his last-minute effort, Gopal reportedly surrendered in the evening to serve the remainder of his sentence.

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

In his plea filed barely days before his date of surrender, Gopal (68) had said the court could not have denied him the relief extended to his brother Sushil Ansal (77) 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.

The court had on February 9 refused to review its order regarding Sushil, who was let off without any prison term after payment of Rs 30 crore fine in view of his old age and health condition.

Owners of Uphaar cinema in South Delhi, the brothers 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 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.

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