Prosecution may drop witnesses in Uphaar case

NEW DELHI NOV. 13. Two of the sixteen accused in the Uphaar fire tragedy case have died in the past eight months even as more than 100 prosecution witnesses remain to be examined in the next one month. The Delhi High Court has directed the trial court to close the recording of statements of prosecution witnesses till December 15. If the proceedings continue to run at the present pace, the trial court is unlikely to meet the deadline.

However, there is a possibility that the prosecution may drop a majority of the remaining witnesses to help the court to wrap the trial fast.

The former Delhi Fire Service officer, Surender Dutt, and retired Executive Engineer of the PWD, S.N. Dandona, have died in the past eight months. While Dandona was suffering from cancer, Dutt died following a heart attack in March. Though their deaths would not make any material difference to the on-going trial, the accused as well as the families of the victims feel that the trial is going a wee bit slowly.

However one important impact of the demise of Dandona is that officials of different government agencies who had been indicted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would now go scot free because counsel for Dandona had withdrawn an application from the Delhi High Court seeking their prosecution. Counsel for Dandona, K.C. Chopra, told The Hindu that he had withdrawn the application following the death of his client. Among other officials, Dandona had sought prosecution of the Joint Commissioner of Police, Amod Kanth, who was then DCP, Licensing. Dutt had given fire safety clearance while Dandona had approved putting up seats in the gangway in violation of the building bylaws.

It worth mentioning here that as many as 59 people had died in the tragedy due to suffocation as they found it quite difficult to exit due to the blocked gangaway.

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