After making the victims of the terrible Uphaar tragedy wait for justice for eighteen long years, on 19th August 2015, the highest court in the land unjustly permitted the convicted Ansal brothers, Sushil and Gopal, to escape their prison sentence by paying a price of 60 crores to the Delhi Government, ostensibly for the construction of a trauma centre in Delhi NCR. The Ansals deposited Rs 30 crore each to the Chief Secretary, Delhi Government on 9th November 2015 and the same has been accepted.
In the nineteen years since June 13, 1997, we have been hoping to get justice from the judiciary all the while undergoing further stress and trauma. Sadly, the interests of the accused seem to be of greater importance than the interests of victims.
We believe that the message sent by this sentence is one that will prove to be dangerous for the safety and welfare of the citizens of this country, and more so for the residents of Delhi. Instead of imposing punitive measures on the convicts, the order actually gives convicts and criminals the option of paying a price for their freedom. By this logic the rich and powerful in the corporate sector who own most public spaces like multiplexes ,hospitals, shopping malls, schools could take hundreds of lives, secure in the knowledge that even if they are convicted, payment of a penalty of 1 crore per life taken will ensure that they can go scot-free. We have waited nineteen years for justice. But the Ansal brothers were able to walk free after just a few months in jail. With this judgement of the Supreme Court how do we ensure that no more lives are lost because of pure greed and recklessness?
Though the Supreme Court allowed an open court hearing of the Review Petition on 6th January 2016 it has still not been taken up or scheduled for hearing. Since the matter was not being listed, AVUT mentioned the matter in the court of Hon’ ble Chief Justice on 17th March 2016 for an early hearing. CJI assured the counsel appearing for AVUT that the review plea would be listed for hearing after the Holi vacation. As the matter was not listed after the Holi vacation AVUT mentioned the matter again on 19th April 2016. The court said it would consult the concerned judges of the bench and explore possibility of listing and hearing the plea during upcoming summer vacation. Unfortunately no orders have been passed.
We at AVUT sincerely hope that justice would be done so that there is a judicial closure for the victims’ families.
AVUT PRAYER MEET: 19th Death Anniversary of Uphaar Fire Victims
Monday, 13th June, 2016 AT 9 a.m.
VENUE: “SMRITI UPAVAN”- GREEN PARK EXTENSION, OPP.UPHAAR CINEMA.
For 19 long years the families of those who lost their precious lives in the Uphaar Cinema Fire have continued to perform Havan & Shanti Path for the peace of the departed souls. There can be no Peace without justice for our loved ones.
PRESIDENT – AVUT
Members of AVUT who lost 59 relatives in a fire in Uphaar cinema on Friday, June 13, 1997 have, for the past 17 years also grappled with an excruciating legal battle. After a sustained & prolonged legal battle AVUT’s stand has been vindicated when the Hon’ble Supreme Court convicted Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal.
The verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme court dated 5th March 2014, convicted Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal owners/occupiers of the cinema on the grounds that the Ansal brothers not only showed scant regard for the safety of patrons by closing the exit, 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 results to the 17 year long efforts of the families of the victims when the bench of the 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 bench referred determination of sentence to a three-judge bench .The victims will now have to await the decision of the three-judge bench.
Our courts have not learnt from their counterparts in other countries who have dealt sternly and swiftly with regard to tragedies involving human lives. In the recent judgement by an Italian court in the Asbestos case, the courts have sentenced the accused to 18 years in jail and have ordered him to pay tens of millions of Euros to local authorities and the victim’s family. The owner of the República de Cromañón nightclub in Buenos Aires was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2004 blaze that killed 194 music fans. These verdicts are in sharp contrast to the conservative judgements passed by our courts. The law is being administered by our courts for law’s sake and not for justice.
Punishment should always be proportionate to /commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and economic or social status of the accused or long pendency of the criminal trial cannot be construed as a factor for reducing the sentence.
Members of the Association hope that the larger bench would consider the enormity of the tragedy before deciding on the quantum of sentence. It is very evident from the findings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court that 59 invaluable lives were snuffed out due to wanton disregard of the statutes with the intention of making extra money rather than ensuring the safety of patrons. We also hope that the decision on the quantum of punishment is such that it would send a strong message to the occupiers & owners of public spaces that they cannot endanger human lives to fill their coffers.
We appeal to the Government of India to bring in a new legislation to deal with man-made disasters pending for past 5 years.
We at AVUT still await closure.
AVUT PRAYER MEET: 17TH DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF UPHAAR FIRE VICTIMS
Friday, 13th June, 2014 AT 9 a.m.
VENUE: “SMRITI UPAVAN”- GREEN PARK EXTENSION, OPP.UPHAAR CINEMA.
To mark the 17th death anniversary of the 59 precious lives lost in the Uphaar fire, the Association is holding a Havan & Shanti Path at “Smriti Upavan” opposite Uphaar Cinema, Green Park Extension, New Delhi .
- Despite the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme court convicting Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal, owners/occupiers of the cinema u/s 304 A the bench differed on the quantum of sentence. The victims will now have to await the decision of the three-judge bench.
- Charges framed in the Tampering of Evidence matter pertaining to 2003 against Sushil Ansal , Gopal Ansal and 5 others u/s 409,109,201 & 120B IPC by Ld. CMM Patiala House Court on 31.05.2014.
- Appeal to the Government of India to bring in a new legislation to deal with man-made disasters pending for past 5 years.
- We at AVUT still await closure.
TEN SIMILARITIES BETWEEN UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY & AMRI HOSPITAL FIRE
UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY: GRIEF, LOSS & INJUSTICE
A rankling sense of injustice tortures the 28 families who lost 59 relatives in a fire in Uphaar cinema during the matinee show on the first day of the release of Hindi movie, Border, on Friday, June 13, 1997.
The past 11 years have been an excruciating legal battle for the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy. In November 2007, a Delhi court convicted all 12 accused, including theatre owners Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, guilty of gross negligence under section 304 A, 337 and 338 of IPC. The verdict of the trial has further traumatized and victimized us when we realize that the people responsible for the tragedy have been let off with a mere two year sentence. The families have resolved that they will continue their fight for justice.
We take this opportunity to remind people that no verdict or sentence can bring back to life our dear ones, who were so cruelly snatched away from us. The outcome of this case will, in fact, impact public safety and we hope that in future, public spaces in the country will become safer.
It is with the utmost pain that we have come to realize that for our policy makers and decision makers, human life is of little value. Those convicted of having caused the death of 59 innocent people could well get away with a mere two years in prison. The convicts are out on bail and have even been given permission to travel abroad. It is very painful when the fundamental rights of convicts are protected even while the fundamental right of victims to get speedy justice has been suspended for over a decade.