This Article is From Nov 21, 2019

Uphaar Tragedy: Passport Department Officials Yet To Join Probe, High Court Told

Delhi Police has said that one of the two regional passport officials had "lifted" the ''stop'' imposed on Ansal's application despite there being adverse reports against him, and the other had referred it to the policy department.

Uphaar Tragedy: Passport Department Officials Yet To Join Probe, High Court Told

1997 Uphaar cinema fire incident had claimed 59 lives. (File)

New Delhi:

The police told the Delhi High Court on Thursday that officials who had handled the passport application of real estate baron Sushil Ansal, convicted in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire incident that claimed 59 lives, have not yet joined the investigation into how he got the travel document despite his conviction.

In a status report submitted before Justice Najmi Waziri, Delhi Police has said that one of the two regional passport officials had "lifted" the ''stop'' imposed on Ansal's application despite there being adverse reports against him, and the other had referred it to the policy department.

It told the court the statement of both officials needed to be recorded, but one was on maternity leave and the senior of the other had not allowed the police to record his statement.

The court was hearing a plea filed by 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.

Mrs Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two children in the tragedy, said the court has allowed the police to carry out the investigation by visiting the concerned Regional Passport Office at R K Puram on November 28.

During the hearing, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for AVUT, told the court almost a year has gone by since it directed the Delhi Police to investigate how Ansal was given VVIP treatment by issuance of a ''F'' or fast token.

The court had also asked how his application status was changed from pre-verification status to post-verification and the stop imposed on it was also removed.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in its affidavit answering the court's queries, has claimed "no special facility was granted" to Ansal.

It has said the F-tokens were granted at the discretion of passport officer for expeditious submission of documents and not to relax any legal requirement, adding that the facility is extended to all kinds of applicants, including senior citizens.

The ministry said in the present case the token was issued to Ansal as he was a senior citizen and also a businessman, but "he was not treated as a VIP".

Regarding conversion from pre-police verification to post verification, the ministry has said it was done as Ansal had furnished a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the concerned trial court.

Since the adverse reports pertained to the FIR for which NOC had been submitted, Ansal's application status was changed from pre-verification to post verification.

The ministry also said criminal complaints, which are under investigation, are not a constraint in the issuance of a passport and therefore, were not considered in the present case.

Delhi Police, in its adverse report, had also mentioned some complaints against Ansal which were under investigation.

The court had earlier termed as "inexplicable" how the pre-verification status was changed to post-verification and the ''stop'' put on Ansal's passport application cleared, despite two adverse reports sent by Delhi Police regarding him to the Regional Passport Office.

When there was such a clear communication on record from the end of the police, "there was no question of the verification being changed from pre-verification to post-verification because the passport office had full knowledge of the facts of the case", the court had said.