Suspending the Ansal brothers’ sentence in the evidence-tampering case relating to the Uphaar Cinema Fire tragedy, the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday, would erode the public’s faith in the legal system [Sushil Ansal vs. State of NCT of Delhi].

Sushil and Gopal Ansal were found guilty of the highly serious crime of tampering with court records, according to Justice Subramonium Prasad. He said that the way it was done was diabolical, suggesting a well-planned deliberate attempt to corrupt the legal system to profit and avoid conviction in the Uphaar case.

“This Court thinks that suspending the Petitioners’ sentences would erode the public’s faith in the judicial system because it would entail allowing convicts who have already been found guilty to take advantage of the passage of time as well as the judiciary as an institution,” the single-judge concluded.

The Court stated that petitioners were convicted of tampering with evidence in judicial custody, which would have had the effect of interfering with the administration of justice if it had not been brought to the Court’s attention.

“It cannot be maintained that the Order of the Ld. Appellate Court, in not deferring the sentencing of the Complainants herein throughout the pendency of the Appeal, is perverse or demands to be interfered with in the facts of the present case, especially given the nature of the offense,” Justice Prasad remarked.

The applicants’ age was not a factor in the Court’s decision. While age should be considered when determining an application under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Bench stated that it cannot be used as a criterion at this time in the case because of the conspiracy to postpone the trial.

Furthermore, this Court has reviewed the Petitioners’ medical records and determined that their condition is not severe enough to warrant the Petitioners’ sentences being suspended. In any case, there are correctional hospitals as well as referral hospitals in the event of an emergency. The Court said, “This Court does not believe it is proper to allow the Petitioners herein to profit from their wrongdoings.”

Sushil Ansal is 83 years old, whereas Gopal Ansal is around 73. The High Court urged that the lower courts expedite the hearing of the appeals and make a decision within a month, citing the gravity of the crime and the claims involved, to ensure that the public’s faith in the justice system is not damaged. The Court reached the following conclusion:

“This Court believes that issues of this sort should be heard and decided as soon as possible since any delay will only cause people to lose faith in the judiciary, which is a respected institution. The Petitioners bear the stigma of desecrating the temple of justice, and an injunction must be issued against them.”

Given this, the Ld. Appellate Court is requested to expedite and complete the hearing of the Petitioners’ appeals filed herein within one month of the date of this Order, including, if necessary, day-to-day hearings, and to pronounce the judgment as soon as possible after the hearing of the Petitioners’ appeals is completed.

The Court, on the other hand, granted co-accused Anoop Singh Karayat’s appeal because he was not apprehended during the trial and was over 70 years old. During the pendency of his appeal, his sentence was suspended on the condition that he post a personal bond of one lakh with two sureties in the same amount.

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