A Delhi court on Saturday dismissed former IPS officer Amod Kanth's plea to drop proceedings on framing of charges against him in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case, saying the accused has "no right to be heard at this stage".
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Lokesh Kumar Sharma said judicial proceedings cannot be dropped at the behest of the accused at the point of framing charges.
The court passed the order while hearing the case against Kanth, who has been booked 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 and under the Cinematography Act.
"I am of the considered opinion that stopping and dropping of judicial proceedings at the behest of accused at the point of framing charges cannot be allowed. The same is dismissed," the court said and fixed February 2, 2013 to hear further arguments on framing charges.
Fifty nine people had been asphyxiated to death and over 100 others were injured in ill-fated Uphaar cinema hall on June 13, 1997 during the maiden screening of Hindi blockbuster 'Border'.
The former cop had filed the plea through his counsel Dinesh Goyal saying that he was not given the opportunity to argue in the matter while the CBI and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), which has no locus standi in the matter, have already been provided such an opportunity.
Goyal argued that "if the accused has no right of hearing at this stage of framing of charges against him, then certainly the prosecution and any other party can have no such right by any stretch of imagination."
The judge responded to the counsel's contention saying "I don't think that this application is maintainable at this stage of framing of charges and the accused has no right of hearing at this stage."
The court asked the counsel to show any judgement which can satisfy it. "Once the cognisance (of the charge sheet) has been taken, then this court has no power to reverse or recall the order," it said.
The court also pointed out "if we are at this stage of framing charges then it means that court has found some incriminating substances and evidence against the accused."
Opposing Kanth's plea, senior counsel K T S Tulsi appearing for AVUT said "material available on record shows that serious offences punishable under section 304 of IPC is made out against the accused, so he should not be discharged in the case as he was the main architect of the whole fire tragedy."
AVUT had opposed the clean chit given to the former police officer, contending that he should be prosecuted for serious offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 of the IPC entailing maximum sentence of life imprisonment instead of section 304 A which stipulates lighter punishment of only up to two years jail term for causing death due to negligence.
AVUT had also alleged that the CBI was trying to protect its former officer by giving an opinion that there was no negligence on his part.
The CBI, while denying the allegation, had maintained there was no evidence to charge Kanth and had added that at best the retired police officer could be charged with a lesser offence under section 304 A of IPC.
A lower court had in August 2010 rejected the CBI's report, which had absolved Kanth of all criminal culpability in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy.
The court had said there was sufficient material to prosecute Kanth under sections 304 A, 337 and 338 of IPC.
The court had also said there was prima-facie evidence to prosecute Kanth under the Cinematography Act.
The alleged role of Kanth had come under scanner when a trial court, while awarding varying jail terms to 12 accused, including theatre owners Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the fire case, had asked CBI to probe his alleged "acts of commission and omission" in allowing the extra seats.