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Uphaar case victims' plea: CBI seeks time

July 28, 2009 19:32 IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday sought more time from a Delhi court to file its reply to the plea of victims of Uphaar fire tragedy challenging the clean chit given to former IPS officer Amod Kanth accused of allowing extra seats in the theatre where 59 people died in the 1997 inferno.

"Some more time be granted for filing the reply," the prosecutor, appearing for CBI, submitted before District and Sessions Judge S P Garg.

The court allowed the plea and deferred the hearing till August 29 for filing of reply to the application of Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) against CBI's report that it did not find anything incriminating to prosecute the former police officer.

It had issued notice to the probe agency on the protest application of AVUT. Earlier, the probe agency, in its report, had said that there was no witness to the fact that it was Kanth who allowed extra seats in the theatre for any consideration.

Kanth, the then Deputy Commissioner of Police (Licencing), had allegedly allowed retention of 37 extra seats in the theatre in 1979 in violation of the Cinematograph Act. These extra seats had consequently blocked the exits at the balcony of the theatre where 59 movie-watchers died of asphyxia as they could not go out when fire engulfed it during the screening of Hindi movie 'Border' on June 13, 1997, the court had observed in its verdict in 2007.

The decision to retain extra seats in the theatre was taken by Kanth on the technical advice of the then PWD engineer S N Dandona and Chief Fire Officer R S Sundraram, CBI had said adding the IPS officer could not be made accountable.

The probe agency said Dandana, who was made an accused in the case, died during the trial while the Chief Fire Officer retired. The AVUT, in its protest application, said CBI's report did not consider the relevant documents while giving the clean chit to Kanth.

Citing an affidavit filed by Kanth before the Delhi High Court in 1979, the AVUT alleged the former IPS officer was aware that retention of extra seats in the theatre would result in closure of gangways.

"The affidavit clearly brings out the fact that Kanth was not only aware of the hazards that blocking of gangways and exits could have caused but also he knew that any relaxation on that count clearly contravened the rules," the petition said. The AVUT had sought rejection of CBI's closure report and said Kanth be tried for alleged complicity in the offence.
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