Victims of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy who have waited tirelessly for two decades were deeply disappointed and distressed by the judgement they finally received from the highest court in India on 9th February 2017. We believe that the verdict is certain to go down in history as a travesty of justice. The judgement is both unfortunate and terrible and one which shows the pro-establishment mindset of the Supreme Court. Such a judgement will only embolden the owners of public spaces to violate safety rules and compromise on safety, with no thought of endangering human lives. It is a well-known fact that lawbreakers are always ahead of lawmakers, but it is for the courts to see that justice is done and lawbreakers are brought to book.
Our courts have not learnt from their counterparts in other countries who have dealt sternly and swiftly to deal with tragedies involving human lives. It is as if the law is being administered by our courts to nurture corporate interests and not to deliver justice.
Punishment should always be proportionate to /commensurate with the gravity of offence, and factors such as economic or social status of the accused, their age, or long pendency of criminal trial cannot be construed as factors for reducing the sentence.
There is a plethora of Supreme court judgements wherein the Supreme Court has incarcerated convicts for life despite their old age. In a recent judgement ( Abdul Waheed v/s State of U.P.- SCC (2016) Vol –I 583) the Supreme court in a 40 year old case, while sentencing a ninety year old man to life imprisonment has held that it is the duty of court to award proper sentence having regard to the manner in which the offence was committed. Age of the appellant and the time elapsed since occurrence is of no relevance. Undue sympathy would do more harm to the criminal justice system in addition to undermining the public confidence in the efficacy of the system.
Sushil Ansal, 76 years old is fit to play Golf, carry on his business activities and also make plans to relocate overseas, but strangely Supreme Court finds him too old to serve jail time.
The jail sentence of one year awarded by the court to Gopal Ansal barely works out to 6 days in jail for each of the 59 he killed, whereas for Sushil Ansal who has undergone 5 months and twenty days in jail, it works out to only around 3 days per innocent victim.
We have also received information recently that a mercy petition has been filed on behalf of Gopal Ansal by Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani. The same has been received by the Ministry of Home Affairs and forwarded to the Lt. Governor of Delhi for his opinion. We are shocked that the Ministry of Home Affairs has bothered to entertain such a blatantly undeserving petition on behalf of a convicted mass murderer. We trust that our hopes will not be dashed further by the Lt. Governor by entertaining this petition.
We have spent the last twenty years suffering pain, emptiness & desperation, hoping that this verdict would bring peace to the departed souls of our loved ones. We heard it said innumerable times that justice should not only be done but must also be seen to be done. But unfortunately, justice has been denied to the Uphaar victims.