NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought responses of the Centre, the passport authorities and Sushil Ansal, convicted in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire which killed 59 people, on a plea alleging that he played a fraud on authorities while getting his passport renewed.
The plea alleged that the real estate tycoon held two passports which showed that they were issued and renewed without following the proper procedure and he did not even take NoC from the courts in the past 21 years, during which he travelled abroad extensively.
Justice Najmi Waziri directed the Chief Passport Officer to produce the two applications filed by Ansal for renewal of his passport and listed the matter for further hearing on October 3.
The court issued a notice to Ministry of External Affairs, the Delhi government, Chief Passport Officer and Ansal on the petition by Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy alleging that Ansal concealed or gave false information to the authorities for renewal of his passport.
Krishnamoorthy, who lost two children in the tragedy, has been fighting a legal battle on behalf of the victims' families for the last 20 years.
It was alleged earlier that Ansal was getting his passport renewed every 5-10 years.
As per rules, the passport application for new/ re-issue/ replacement of lost/ damaged passport issued by the Ministry of External Affairs mandates the applicant to disclose whether he is involved in any criminal case or not and to produce the NOC from the concerned court in case they are involved in any criminal prosecution.
The plea claimed that Ansal was holding two passports.
The chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) also noted in an order that his passport number given to the court in 2018 was different from the earlier one mentioned in 2008.
However, the CMM failed to issue directions for inquiry regarding the glaring deficiency and dismissed the plea of AVUT seeking to ask Ansal to produce documents granting him permission to renew his passport.
"Sushil Ansal has played a fraud upon all the criminal courts and has not taken 'no-objection certificate' from any of the courts in the past 21 years and travelled abroad extensively.
He did not even take NOC from the Supreme Court during the pendency of his appeal in the main Uphaar fire tragedy case during the period January 30, 2009 - August 19, 2015" the plea said.
It sought a direction to the ministry to conduct an inquiry into the conduct of the passport authorities for issuing a passport to Ansal without following the due procedure of law.
The plea sought setting aside of trial court's January 8 and May 2 orders dismissing the association's similar application.
The petitioner said they had also filed a complaint with the Prime Minister's Office which reverted with the reply of regional passport office that an explanation was sought from the accused on the status of cases and suppression of material information.
"The accused has surrendered his passport and has applied afresh," the regional passport office said in its reply to the PMO.
The plea said, "From the perusal of the response filed by the PMO, it is evident that Ansal has suppressed material information in the application form and has connived with the passport authorities to get his passport re-issued without following the due process of law. Therefore, Ansal's passport deserves to be revoked/impounded."
The apex court had last year asked Gopal Ansal to undergo the remaining of one-year jail term in the case, while his elder brother Sushil Ansal got relief from incarceration with a prison term already undergone by him in view of age-related complications.
A fire at the Uphaar cinema during the screening of Hindi film 'Border' on June 13, 1997, had claimed 59 lives.