The Passport authorities on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that Sushil Ansal, convicted for the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy which claimed 59 lives, seems to have "deliberately concealed" the details of the criminal case against him while applying for the travel document.
The submission was made by the Regional Passport Office (RPO) before Justice Najmi Waziri in response to his query on October 3 as to how a passport was issued in 2000, 2004 and 2013 to Ansal "when the world knew in some way or the other" about the Uphaar tragedy and that he was involved in it.
The court had also asked the Ministry of External Affairs to carry out an enquiry against the passport officers who had repeatedly issued the travel document to Ansal and to submit a report before it.
Answering the court's query, the passport office said it was presumed that the declaration given by Ansal in his personal particular form was true and he had no information in respect of any criminal proceedings against him.
"As regards issuance of passport to respondent 4 (Ansal) despite his silence about vital information about pendency of criminal proceedings against him in his application filed on March 29, 2000, it is submitted that the personal particular form was submitted by him through post in the year 2000.
"It was presumed that the declaration provided by him was true and he had no information for submission in respect of the criminal proceedings undergoing against him during the relevant time and he had also not submitted any undertaking regarding the same. Now, it seems that respondent 4 deliberately concealed the material information," the passport office said in its affidavit.
The high court noted that Ansal was issued a passport even after his conviction by a trial court in the case in 2007.
The court was hearing a plea moved by Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), through its chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy, alleging that Ansal played a fraud on the authorities while getting his passport renewed.
It has contended that he deliberately made false declarations and suppressed material facts about his conviction while applying for additional booklets of passport.
As per the rules, the passport application for new/ re-issue/ replacement of lost/ damaged passport issued by the MEA mandates the applicant to disclose whether he is involved in a criminal case or not and to produce the NOC from the concerned court in case they are involved in any criminal prosecution.
Ansal was issued additional booklets of passport in 2000, 2004 and 2013 and in all these applications he maintained that he was not charged with criminal case or summons or warrants and not convicted by any court in India, the court was informed through passport office records.
When a complaint was made by the complainant to the authorities, an enquiry was initiated which found that Ansal was convicted and other cases were pending against him and he surrendered the passport.
The plea alleged that the real estate tycoon held two passports which showed that they were issued and renewed without following the proper procedure and he did not even take NoC from the courts in the past 21 years, during which he traveled abroad extensively.
Krishnamoorthy, who lost two children in the tragedy, has been fighting a legal battle on behalf of the victims' families for the last 20 years.
The plea claimed that Ansal was holding two passports and that a chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) also noted in an order that his passport number given to the court in 2018 was different from the earlier one mentioned in 2008.
However, the CMM failed to issue directions for inquiry regarding the glaring deficiency, it alleged.
It has sought setting aside of the trial court's January 8 and May 2 orders dismissing the association's similar application.
The apex court had last year asked Gopal Ansal to undergo the remaining of one-year jail term in the case, while his elder brother Sushil Ansal got relief from incarceration with a prison term already undergone by him in view of age-related complications.