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Probing passport officials’ role in issuance of passport to Sushil Ansal: Police to High Court

New Delhi : The police told the Delhi High Court on Tuesday that it had launched a probe into the role of passport officials in connection with the issuance of the travel document to real estate baron Sushil Ansal, convicted for the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire incident that claimed 59 lives.

The Crime Branch of Delhi Police, in a status report placed before Justice Najmi Waziri, said an “investigation regarding the role of passport officials has also been initiated”.

It added that a notice was served to the Regional Passport Office (RPO) “for the details of all passports issued to Sushil Ansal from 2000 onwards, including the one in 2018”.

The status report, filed through advocate Trideep Pais, said the police were probing all the aspects as regards the passport issued to Ansal.

After perusing the report, the court listed the matter for further hearing on July 23.

It also discharged Ansal from the proceedings after his lawyers said all the reliefs sought against him were already granted and he had also joined the investigation.

The report was filed in response to the court’s query on May 16 as to whether the police had lodged an FIR pursuant to a single-judge order on December 17, 2018.

On December 17 last, the court had directed the police to lodge an FIR in connection with Ansal getting a favourable verification report in 2013, when he had applied for a fresh passport.

Subsequently, an FIR was registered against Ansal and the police officers who had given the favourable verification report.

The police, on March 13, had told the court that they had started interrogating Ansal as regards the issuance of the passport to him.

The court was hearing a plea moved by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), through its chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy, seeking a CBI probe into the alleged criminal misconduct by passport and police officials in issuing the travel document to Ansal.

On June 13, 1997, a fire in the Uphaar cinema hall in the national capital had killed 59 people during the screening of Hindi film “Border”.

Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two children in the tragedy, has been fighting a legal battle on behalf of the victims’ families for over 20 years now.

The Supreme Court, in 2017, had asked Gopal Ansal, who was also convicted in the case, to undergo the remaining of his one-year jail term in the case, while his elder brother Sushil Ansal got relief from incarceration in view of age-related complications with a prison term already undergone by him.

The AVUT, represented by senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, had earlier alleged in the court that there was a “nexus” and “conspiracy” between the RPO officials, police officers and Ansal, which had led to the issuance of the passport to the latter, despite being convicted in the Uphaar tragedy case.

The application for a new passport or for re-issuance or replacement of lost or damaged passport issued by the Ministry of External Affairs mandates the applicant to disclose whether he is involved in a criminal case and to produce a no-objection certificate from the court concerned in case he is involved in any criminal prosecution.

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