NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has directed a lower court to make an endeavour to pronounce by July 15 next year its verdict in a matter relating to alleged tampering of documents during the trial of the main case in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy.
Justice Anu Malhotra also directed the trial court to fix at least three dates of hearing per week in the matter and sought a status report of the proceedings there by February 18 next year.
"The trial court is directed to fix at least three dates of hearing in the matter per week and is called upon to endeavour to complete the trial in the proceedings with the pronouncement of judgement by July 15, 2019," the high court said.
The high court, which had earlier directed the lower court to decide the case by November 30, took into account a status report filed by the trial judge in which it had stated about the heavy pendency in its court.
The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at the Patiala House court here mentioned in the status report that there were 49 prosecution witnesses in the case and 37 are yet to be examined.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy, president of the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), submitted that at least five dates of hearing be fixed before the trial court as the matter relating to tampering of evidence in the main case, which involved real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal, was very old.
The high court also asked the Delhi government and other parties in the case to cooperate in the trial to expedite disposal of the matter. On January 17, the high court had sought details of a case relating to the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy which was being heard by a trial court. This was after the victims' group moved a plea for a speedy trial in the matter.
On June 13, 1997, a fire broke out at the theatre during the screening of Bollywood film 'Border', killing 59 people and injuring over 100. On January 31, 2003, a trial court ordered an inquiry after some documents related to the case went missing from the court's record room.
After an inquiry, a court employee was dismissed from service. The case is related to the tampering of a judicial file pertaining to a letter written by the vice president of Ansal Properties Industries Ltd, V K Nagpal, to the Delhi Fire Services. An FIR was registered in this regard.
"It is important to note, that even in the main Uphaar fire tragedy case, the entire trial was concluded within a period of 10 years with the intervention of this court. "However, in the instant case, which arises out tampering with the original court records of the Uphaar fire tragedy case, despite 10 years from the date of registration of FIR, not a single prosecution witness has been able to complete their deposition," the plea by the association said.
The Delhi High Court had on May 12 last year upheld a trial court order framing charges of tampering of evidence against Ansals.
A magisterial court on May 31, 2014, ordered framing of charges against seven accused for abatement of offence, causing the disappearance of evidence, criminal breach of trust by public servant and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
Theatre owners Gopal Ansal and his brother Sushil Ansal, Anoop Singh, Prem Prakash Batra, Harswaroop Panwar, Dharamveer Malhotra and Dinesh Chandra Sharma were accused of tampering with evidence in the case, pending since 2006.
All the accused have denied the allegations against them.