Uphaar tragedy: HC reserves former IPS officer`s plea against summoning order

Delhi High Court reserved verdict on plea of former IPS Amod Kanth against 2010 trial court order summoning him for allowing extra seats in Uphaar cinema hall where 59 movie watchers died in 1997.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved its verdict on a plea of former IPS officer Amod Kanth against the 2010 trial court order summoning him for allowing extra seats in the Uphaar cinema hall where 59 movie watchers died in a blaze in 1997.
Justice P K Bhasin reserved the order after hearing arguments from counsel of Kanth and Uphaar cinema victims, on whose plea the trial judge had summoned Kanth on August 12, 2010.

Kanth`s counsel argued that the former IPS officer cannot be tried for allegedly allowing extra seats in Uphaar cinema as "sanction to prosecute" him was not procured.

The lawyer said that the CrPC provisions and the Delhi Police Act required that a prior sanction is a "must" to prosecute a police officer for his acts done in discharge of his official duty.

Further, the senior advocate submitted that the plea is hopelessly time barred as the act complained of pertains to 1979 and the incident took place on June 13, 1997.

Countering Kanth`s arguments, the victims` lawyer K T S Tulsi argued that the senior officer had personally visited the Uphaar theatre in 1979 and allowed 37 extra seats which is against his affidavit, which he had furnished before the Delhi High Court in another case earlier.

The lawyer said in the affidavit, the officer had stated that extra seats in the cinema hall would be hazardous and may block the exit in case of any emergency.

While rejecting CBI`s report giving a clean chit to Kanth, the trial judge on August 12, 2010 had said, "The investigation report of CBI is hereby rejected. Let the summons be issued against Amod Kanth."

The lower court had said there was sufficient material to prosecute Kanth under section 304A (causing death by rash and negligent act), 337 (causing hurt by an act which endangers human life) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by an act which endangers human life) of IPC.

The court also observed that there were prima-facie evidence to prosecute Kanth under the Cinematograph Act.

The court order had come on a plea of Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) seeking rejection of CBI`s report absolving the former IPS officer in the case.

Earlier, CBI, in pursuance of a Delhi High Court order, had filed a report after probing the role of Kanth and favoured his non-prosecution.

The alleged role of Kanth had come under the scanner when a trial court, while awarding varying jail terms to 12 accused, including theatre owners Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the fire case, had asked CBI to probe his alleged "acts of commission and omission" in allowing the extra seats.

CBI, which initially did not comply with the trial court order asking it file a report, was reprimanded by the Delhi High Court which had upheld the conviction of Ansals and others.

The High Court, however, had reduced the jail terms of Ansals from two to one year under section 304 A (causing death by rash and negligent acts) of IPC.