PRESS RELEASE

Date: 13.06.2017

 

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 the 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 law breakers are always ahead of law makers, but it is for the courts to see that justice is done and law breakers 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 criminal justice system in addition to undermining the public confidence in the efficacy of the system.

Sushil Ansal, 76 year 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.

Neelam Krishnamoorthy

President AVUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVUT PRAYER MEET: 20th Death Anniversary of Uphaar Fire Victims

Tuesday, 13th June, 2017 AT 9 a.m.

VENUE: “SMRITI UPAVAN”- GREEN PARK EXTENSION, OPP.UPHAAR CINEMA.

Please join us for the annual Havan and Shanti Paath that the families of those who lost their precious lives in the Uphaar Fire have been performing for 20 years for the peace of the departed souls.

Today we pray not for justice for the departed souls, but for those who are naïve enough to seek justice in this country as we did.

NEELAM KRISHNAMOORTHY

PRESIDENT – AVUT

JOIN OUR PROTEST AND CANDLE LIGHT VIGIL ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 AT 5 PM AT JANTAR MANTAR

#RememberUphaar
An open letter to Delhi from the families of the 59.

On June 13, 1997 we sent our two children Ujjwal and Unnati to the movies at Uphaar Cinema in New Delhi. A few hours later, we brought their bodies home. The next day we performed their last rites. We were not alone. Fifty seven others lost their lives that day. They too, were innocent victims.

Eighteen long years have gone by as we – the families of the 59, have waited for justice. On the 19th of August, 2015, The Supreme Court of India finally confirmed that the owners of Uphaar Cinema, Sushil and Gopal Ansal, were responsible for these deaths and should serve the maximum sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment for their crime. However, after just 5 and 4 months in jail, the brothers were able to walk free by paying a small penalty, a drop in the ocean of their Rupees 900 crore business empire.

We have waited eighteen years for justice. But the Ansal brothers were able to walk away after just a few months in jail. Have any lessons been learnt? Has justice been served? How do we ensure that no more lives are lost because of pure greed and recklessness?

These are some of the questions we want to ask on September 12, the day we #RememberUphaar. Come join us at 5pm as we meet peacefully at Jantar Mantar to protest. Help us find justice for our loved ones and make our city safe again.

Let us know you are coming – tweet us at @Neelamshekhar or email at rememberuphaar@gmail.com

We are grateful and touched by hundreds of letters of support and to everyone who is spreading the word. You are creating a powerful movement for change. Come join us on September 12.

Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy
Parents of Unnati & Ujjwal
On behalf of the families of the 59
#RememberUphaar

Other Fire Incidents in Ansal Building

Serious fire at Ansal chambers at Bhikhaji Cama Place on  17th  Feb 2015.

Other fire incidents in Ansal Building

  1. Serious fire at Ansal Bhawan on 28th June 1987. Cause of fire due to short circuit. The deaths and injury occurred due violations of fire safety norms. 3 casualties  & 80 injured
  2. Serious fire at Uphaar Cinema on 6th July 1989. Fire initiated from two transformer at the ground floor of the cinema building. No casualty.
  3.  Serious fire at Uphaar cinema on 13th June 1997. Fire initiated from transformer on the car parking area. The deaths occurred due to various violation  and deviations in the cinema.  59 casualties & 103 injured
  4.  Fire at Ansal Bhawan on 8th March. 2007. No casualty.

BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF VARIOUS CASES

BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF VARIOUS CASES-UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY

 

CRIMINAL APPEAL

The Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its judgement dated 5th March 2014 in the Criminal Appeal No. 597/2010 has convicted Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal holding them responsible for the following:

  • They were more concerned with making a little more money out of the few additional seats. that were added to the cinema in the balcony rather than maintaining the required standards of safety in discharge of the common law duty but also under the provisions of the DCR 1953.

 

  • The death of the deceased in the tragedy occurred due to the trap created  Sushil Ansal  and Gopal Ansal along with the other actors who helped them achieve that end. Had the layout of the balcony not been changed from the sanctioned plan to such an extent that access to the right hand exit was totally blocked, this tragedy would not have taken place.

 

  • The conduct of Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal was thus in total disregard of all the safety rules meant to contain a tragedy of this kind coupled with the knowledge of the 1989 fire which had taken place earlier in the Uphaar theatre.

 

 

  • The occupiers of the cinema building were not sensitive towards the demands of safety of the patrons and amply showed that the safety of the visitors to the theatre was a matter of low priority for the occupiers

 

  • Blocking of the vertical gangway along the rightmost wall and the narrowing of the vertical gangway along the right side of the middle exit by installation of additional seats had the effect of depriving the patrons of the facility to use the right side gangway and the gangway along the middle exit for quick dispersal from the balcony.

 

 

  • The closure of the right side exit in the balcony area by installation of a private eight-seater box permanently cut off access to the right side staircase and thereby violated not only the DCR 1953 but also prevented the patrons from using that exit and the right side stairway for quick dispersal from the balcony.

 

  • The introduction of the new exit in the left wing of the balcony in lieu of the closed right side exit did not make up for the breach of Para 10 (4), First Schedule of DCR 1953 which mandates that exits on both sides of the auditorium/balcony.

 

 

  • Failure to introduce fourth exit even when the total number of seats in the balcony had gone above 300 with the addition of 15 more seats installed in 1980, further compromised the safety requirements statutorily prescribed under the DCR.

 

  • Bolting of the middle entry/exit doors leading into the foyer obstructed the flow of patrons out of the balcony exposing them to poisonous gas that spread into the hall for a longer period then what was safe for the patrons to survive.

 

 

  • The bolting of the door leading from the foyer into the right side staircase and outside which had to be forced open also prevented the quick dispersal and led to a large number of causalities.

 

  • Despite the verdict of Hon’ble Supreme court convicting the Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal owners/occupiers of the cinema, the victims’ families await justice even 17 years after the incident.
  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its Judgement dated 5th March 2014 held that, Ansal brothers not only showed scant regard for the safety of patrons by putting up extra seats in the gangway for some extra money, but also endangered their safety by making structural changes in the theatre.  But all these findings failed to give any concrete result to 17 years of effort by the victim’s family.
  • A bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court differed on the quantum of sentence after concurring on their guilt under Section 304A of Indian Penal Code for negligent acts.
  • The victims will now have to await the decision of the three-judge bench.

 

 

TAMPERING OF EVIDENCE MATTER

10.01.2003: CBI files an application regarding missing documents

07.03.2006: AVUT files a Crl.Misc. Application in Crl. Misc (Main Petition No. 2380/2003 in the Hon’ble High Court under section 482 of the code of criminal Procedure praying for directions for registration of a criminal case against offenders for tampering with documents in the court custody.

05.05.2006:The Hon’ble High Court passed following order:

“Delhi Police is called upon to register a case under appropriate provision of law in regard to the incident of removal/tampering with/ mutilation of the documents from the judicial records of the trial court. After the registration of the FIR, investigation shall be entrusted to an officer not below the rank of ACP who will conduct the investigation expeditiously and endeavor to conclude the same within a period three months from the date of this order. A status report shall be filed by the investigating agency before the next date of hearing i.e. 8th August 2006.”

17.05.2006: An FIR No.207/2006 is lodged by Delhi Police under Sec. 109/193/201/218/409/120B IPC under the directions of the High Court.

22.02.2007: Charge Sheet filed EOW Delhi Police in ACMM‘s Court against court Ahalmad Dinesh Chandra Sharma.

23.05.2007: Supplementary Charge Sheet  filed enclosing GEQD Report of the documents seized from A Plus Security Agency

 17.01.2008: 2nd Charge Sheet filed by EOW Delhi Police and following were arrayed asaccused:

1. Sushil Ansal  2. Gopal Ansal 3. H S Panwar 4. PP Batra 5. Anoop Singh

6. Col D V Malhotra

15.02.2008: Summons issued by ACMM Patiala House Court

24.02.2008: Sushil Ansal files revision against the Summoning Order in the Hon’ble High Court

28.04.2008: Gopal Ansal  filed petition to be listed along with Crl Rev. 224/08 of Sushil Ansal

03.09.2010:  Hon’ble Justice Murlidhar dismissed all the Petitions with following directions

“This Court does not find merit in any of the petitions. Each of the petitions is accordingly dismissed with cost of Rs.25,000/-. These costs will be paid to the State within a period of four weeks from today. The interim orders stand vacated. The pending applications are dismissed. The trial court records be returned to the concerned court forthwith together with a certified copy of this order.”

 

26.08.2013: AVUT filed a Criminal Writ Petition in High Court of Delhi with a prayer for expeditious trial . Hon’ble Court has directed  the CMM Patiala House Courts to frame the charges or otherwise by 15th May 2014.

25.05.2014:     Order reserved on framing of charges

31.05.2014:     Charges framed against all seven accused u/s 409/109/201/120B IPC

NEXT DATE OF HEARING 09.10.2014

 

AMOD KANTH :SUMMONED AS AN ACCUSED IN UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY CASE.  

11.02.2004: AVUT filed an application under section 319 for summoning Jt CP Amod Kanth as an accused for allowing additional seats in the balcony of Uphaar cinema in the year 1979.The addition of the seats allowed by Amod Kanth blocked the gangway on the right hand side of the balcony which was in contravention of rules. He also overlooked the closure of the right hand side exit which was in contravention of rules, which was converted into a family box. The closure of the gangway and the non-availability of the exit on the right hand side was the prime cause for the death of 59 innocent lives.

23.11.2007: The Ld Trial Judge vide its judgement  ordered further investigation of the offences in terms of section 173(8) Cr PC.

19.12.2008: The Hon’ble High Court vide its Judgement  observed that the evidence gathered  and placed before the court showed that there were glaring lapses in the Licensing department, the MCD  and DVB and directed CBI that so far as the directions given by  the Trial Court are concerned CBI shall complete the task in time bound manner and report its conclusions to the trial court by 15.03.2009.

05.03.2009: CBI filed a Closure Report in the court of Ld ASJ stating that no criminal acts were found against any of the officials of any department other than the 16 persons charge sheeted in the main case.

03.06.2009: AVUT filed a protest Petition.

12.08.2010: Ld MM of Patiala House Courts  summoned Amod Kanth to stand trial for the offence u/s 304A,337,338 IPC and section 14 of the Cinematograph Act.

26.08.2010: Amod Kanth approached the Hon’ble High Court for setting aside the said order on the ground that no sanction u/s 197 Cr PC has been obtained.

28.08.2012: The Hon’ble High Court set aside the application of Amod Kanth.

Amod Kanth has filed an SLP  in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court.

 

NEELAM KRISHNAMOORTHY v/s SUSHIL ANSAL & ORS u/s 188,506 & 509 IPC ( CRIMINAL INTIMIDATION & OUTRAGING MODESTY OF WOMEN)

  • On a complaint given by Neelam Krishnamoorthy to the Court of Ld. ASJ Ms Mamta Sehgal Patiala House with regard to  staff of Ansal’s who misbehaved and threatened  her in the court premises.
  •  The matter was sent to the Administrative Head of the Court Ms Kamini Lau Ld ACMM.
  • The Ld ACMM on the basis of the complaint summoned Sushil Ansal,Gopal Ansal,PP Batra and Praveen Sharma u/s  188,506 & 509 IPC on 19.06.2007.
  • All the accused approached the Hon’ble High Court for Ex Parte stay. The same was granted on 3rd July 2007 and the matter is pending for last  seven years.
  • The next date of hearing is 10.07.2014 in the Hon’ble High Court.

 

PRESS RELEASE

13.06.2012

PRESS RELEASE

For 15 long years the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT)  has been fighting to get justice for their loved ones who were killed on the 13th June 1997 in one of the worst man made tragedies at Uphaar Cinema,New Delhi .

AVUT invested its faith in the Criminal Judicial System and took up an arduous and agonizing fight for justice in the hope that it would get speedy justice for those who killed in the tragedy. The verdict of the High Court to reduce the sentence smacks of tokenism and has further traumatized and victimized us when we realize that the people responsible for the tragedy have been let off with a mere one year sentence. But even after one and half decades the case has not reached any logical conclusion.

AVUT’s endeavor is to ensure that people who are responsible for such man made tragedies be duly penalized in a manner that acts as a deterrent for future man made tragedies. The nation has witnessed many man made tragedies in the last one and half decades including the recentAMRIHospitalfire in Kolkata, where 90 precious human lives were lost. It is with utmost pain, that the members of AVUT have come to realize that forIndia’s policy makers and decision makers, human life is very cheap.

In this grim scenario, incidents of such catastrophic magnitude are bound to recur since there is no legal deterrent that can instill fear in the minds of those who willfully or casually inflict harm. The need of the hour is to have appropriate legislation to tackle such man made tragedies and put in place appropriate judicial mechanisms that force offenders to think twice before indulging in acts of omission and commission that can endanger human life

AVUT, in July 2009 presented a Petition to the Hon’ble President of India, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Hon’ble Minister for Law & Justice proposing a legislation for prevention of man made tragedies in Public Places.  Despite prompt action by the then Law Minister and an assurance that the Law Commission will work towards a legislation, nothing concrete has happened in the three years that have passed since.

In the recent judgement pronounced by the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 13.10.2011 in the Uphaar Fire Tragedy case Ld. Judges have reiterated the need for laws to deal with such mass tragedies. In Para24 the Ld Judge has observed that “despite the concern shown by this court, it is unfortunate that no legislation has been enacted to deal with such situations. We hope and trust that utmost attention would be given by the legislature for bringing in appropriate legislation to deal with claims in public law for violation of fundamental rights, guaranteed to the citizens at the hands of the state and its officials”.

Public memory is distressingly short people have forgotten and moved on but the family members of the departed gather on 13th June  every year to pray for the peace of the departed souls. However, there can be no peace without justice.  It is this truth, however ugly, but told with unflinching honesty, that can heal their unassuaged agony. And for justice to be delivered to the unfortunate victims of the Uphaar tragedy, the leaders, the courts and the people of this nation need to stand tall on the side of justice.

Members of AVUT once again appeal to the country’s policy makers to implement stringent laws to deter and avert such man made tragedies so that in future, precious human lives are not lost.

NEELAM KRISHNAMOORTHY

PRESIDENT