A Delhi court on Thursday rejected a CBI report that gave a clean chit to former IPS officer Amod Kanth in the Uphaar cinema hall fire case, saying there was sufficient evidence to prosecute him for allowing extra seats in the hall.
“The investigation report of the CBI is hereby rejected. Let the summons be issued against Amod Kanth for August 20,” Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjeev Kumar said.
The court 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 was prima facie evidence to prosecute Kanth under the Cinematograph Act. Reacting to the order, Neelam Krishnamurthy of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) said, “Our stand has been vindicated. It was a long overdue decision against the errant police officer.”
The court had on August 9 reserved its order on a plea by AVUT seeking rejection of the CBI report absolving the former IPS officer in the case.
AVUT has alleged that Kanth as the then Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police (Licensing), had allowed extra seats in Uphaar cinema hall's balcony which allegedly led to closure of exit gates, leading to the death of 59 people who were watching the Hindi film Border.
Senior Advocate K. T. S. Tulsi appearing for AVUT had said that Kanth in October 1979 allowed the theatre owners to retain the extra seats and this order was in contravention of the affidavit filed by him before the Delhi High Court.
Earlier, the CBI in pursuance of a Delhi High Court order had filed a report after probing Kanth's role and favoured his non-prosecution.
The agency in its report had said that there was no witness to the fact that it was Kanth who had allowed the extra seats in the theatre for any consideration.
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 Ansal and Gopal Ansal in the fire case, had asked the CBI to probe his alleged “acts of commission and omission” in allowing the extra seats.
The CBI, which initially did not comply with the trial court order asking it to 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 years to one year under Section 304 A (causing death by rash and negligent acts) of IPC.
The probe agency in its report gave a clean chit to Kanth saying the decision to allow the theatre owners to retain the extra seats in the balcony was based on technical advice rendered to him by the technical staff.
The court, however, lent credence to the claims of the victims' association that Kanth himself was aware that this decision could be fatal in the event of a tragedy.