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 email@example.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
Order dt 19.8.2015 Uphaar : Link to Supreme Court order in the Uphaar case.
Shri Arvind Kejriwal
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Delhi
Subject: Urgent request from AVUT in connection with Supreme Court Judgement dated 19.08.2015 pronounced on sentencing in the Uphaar fire tragedy case.
Dear Shri Kejriwal,
We write to you with an urgent request and with the hope that you will find time from your hectic schedule to give my request the consideration it deserves. For purposes of introducing AVUT, we will be brief. The Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy ® (AVUT) was formed in the aftermath of the worst man-made disaster that struck Delhi on June 13th1997 at Uphaar cinema. The tragedy, which resulted in the loss of 59 innocent lives brought 28 families together not only to share their grief but also to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. We have dedicated our lives to fighting an arduous legal battle seeking justice for the 59 lives that were snuffed out in this man made disaster.
You would have probably heard that after making the victims of the terrible Uphaar tragedy wait for justice for eighteen long years, the highest court in the land has done us a gross injustice by permitting the convicted Ansal brothers, Sushil and Gopal, to go scot free by paying a price of 60 crores to the Delhi Government, ostensibly for the construction of a trauma centre in Delhi NCR.
Sir, 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 he/she is convicted, payment of a penalty of 1 crore per life taken will ensure that he/she can go scot-free.
The Supreme Court has ordered that the Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal pay a sum of 60 crores to the Government of Delhi, but I request that as Chief Minister of Delhi, you should consider refusing to accept this money. This is nothing but blood money, stained with the blood of the 59 innocent lives that perished in the Uphaar fire for no fault of theirs. Accepting this money will send the dangerous message to thousands of government employees that they can indulge in corrupt practises, and permit unlawful activities to flourish in the capital, because ultimately they will be rewarded with crores of rupees for their misdemeanour. You may recall that authorities and employees of various licensing agencies such as Delhi Vidyut Board, PWD, MCD and DFS were held responsible for the Uphaar fire along with the Ansals. They will now receive a reward of 60 crores for the licenses they issued against all rules and regulations, and which resulted in the death of 59 people. We urge you to not accept this tainted reward, and support us in our fight to provide the country with safer public places. We fought this battle knowing that it could not bring back our loved ones, but could only make concerned individuals and agencies accountable for maintaining safety in public places. You had promised us a safer, corruption-free Delhi when you joined office as Chief Minister. We hope you will stand by this promise and accept our request.
We would be happy to provide any details or information you may require and can be contacted on the following numbers:
On the 18th death anniversary of the 59 innocent lives who perished in the terrible Uphaar Fire Tragedy on June 13, 1997 it is with deep pain and despair that we inform our well-wishers that despite following the case relentlessly for the last eighteen years, AVUT has failed in its endeavour. As the families of the victims continue to struggle to cope with their unimaginable grief and loss, the convicts are free to carry on with their business activities as usual and enjoy life.
The judgment in the Criminal Appeal was pronounced on 5th March 2014 by the Supreme Court and pronounced the Ansals guilty. Though the judges concurred on the findings, there was dissent with regards to the sentencing and the matter was referred to a three judge bench. The primary criteria which the court has considered while sentencing is a prolonged trial the accused have faced and the delay of more than sixteen years in the conclusion of proceedings against them. It is matter of record that it was the victims who had at every stage approached the High Court for expeditious trial since the accused were delaying the proceedings by seeking frequent adjournments. Why should the accused be given the double benefits of first a prolonged trial as it is a well-known fact that it is they who seek adjournments on one pretext or the other, and then a lighter sentence on the grounds of delay. In fact delaying the trial proceedings is detrimental to the victims. Once the charge sheet is filed and cognizance is taken by the court it is the responsibility of the courts and the Prosecuting agency to expedite the trial proceedings.
It has been one year and three months since the Ansals were convicted by the Supreme Court, but the order on their sentencing is still awaited. To our knowledge it is unprecedented that an order on sentencing remains pending for over a year after conviction. In the last one year AVUT had moved three applications for early hearing. The matter was finally listed for hearing on 21st April 2015 but we were outraged when once again when the matter was adjourned at the request of the Ansals. How long will we continue to be the victims of this adjournment culture?
While the accused in our country manage to get an early hearing and also get relief, the victims continue to suffer. Even though the country is supposed to be heading for ‘Achhe Din’ under the leadership of our Prime Minister, it seems there will never be any ‘Achhe Din’ for Uphaar Victims unless they get justice for their loved ones
If our Prime Minister really wants us to be proud Indians let him take steps to improve the Justice delivery system. We as bereaved families are definitely not proud Indians when, despite our best and most sincere efforts, the state has failed us in its duty to provide justice for the victims of the Uphaar tragedy in the last two decades.
AVUT PRAYER MEET: 18th DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF VICTIMS OF THE UPHAAR FIRE
Saturday, 13th June, 2015 AT 9 a.m.
VENUE: “SMRITI UPAVAN”- GREEN PARK EXTENSION, OPP.UPHAAR CINEMA.
To mark the 18th 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 .
- One year and three months since Ansals were convicted by the Supreme Court on 5th March 2014 , order on sentencing is still awaited .To our knowledge it is unprecedented that an order on sentencing remains pending for over a year after conviction.
- 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. A year later only one witness has been examined.
- Appeal to the Government of India to bring in a new legislation to deal with man-made disasters pending for past 6 years .
- We at AVUT still await judicial closure.
STATUS OF CASES PENDING IN DIFFERENT COURTS
UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY – CRIMINAL CASE – PENDING IN SUPREME COURT
13.06.1997: Fifty nine people die of Asphyxia and over 100 injured in the worst ever cinema disaster in the country due to fire at Uphaar cinema in New Delhi. The FIR was lodged in the Hauz Khas Police Station. The investigation was handed over to crime branch Delhi Police in the third week of June 1997. Subsequently the investigation was transferred to CBI on 26th July 1997.
15.11.1997: Charge Sheet filed by CBI against 16 accused.
20.11.2007: Judgement of Trial Court convicting all the 12 accused charge sheeted by the CBI. (4 accused died during the trial namely R M Puri Director Uphaar, Uphaar, K L Malhotra , D G M Uphaar, S N Dandona ( PWD) & Surinder Dutt ( DFS)
Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal – 2 years (u/s 304 A IPC, 337,338)
Radhakishan Sharma, Ajit Choudhary & N S Chopra (Managers – Uphaar Cinema) – 7years u/s 304 IPC
Manmohan Unniyal (Gate Keeper Uphaar Cinema) – 7 years u/s 304 IPC
B M Satija, A K Gera & Bir Singh (DVB) – 7 years u/s 304 IPC
H S Panwar ( DFS) – 2 years u/s 304 A IPC
N D Tiwari & Shyam Sunder Sharma (MCD) – 2 years u/s 304 A IPC
10.09.2008: The Hon’ble Supreme Court cancelled the bail granted to Sushil Ansal ,Gopal Ansal by the High Court.
19.12.2008: Judgement of the High Court .The High court convicted 6 out of 12 convicted by the trial court. ( Total hearing -26 )
Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal – Sentence reduced to one year
Radhakishan Sharma & N S Chopra (Managers – Uphaar Cinema) – Acquitted
Manmohan Unniyal (Gate Keeper Uphaar Cinema) – sentence reduced to two years and convicted u/s 304 A IPC
B M Satija & Bir Singh (DVB) – Sentence reduced to two years u/s 304 A
A K Gera (DVB) – Acquitted
H S Panwar ( DFS) – Sentence reduced to one years
N D Tiwari & Shyam Sunder Sharma (MCD) – Acquitted
30.01.2009:.The Court issued notice on an SLP filed by Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy for enhancement of sentence of Sushil & Gopal Ansal and alteration of charge to 304 IPC. The Hon’ble Supreme Court granted bail to Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal and H S Panwar. The court also issued notice on an SLP filed by Ansal’s & H S Panwar.
Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal, B M Satija, Bir Singh, H S Panwar filed an appeal for acquittal
CBI filed a counter appeal for enhancement of sentence to 2 years for Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal, H S Panwar, Alteration of charge to 304 IPC for B M Satija, Bir Singh ( DVB) & Manmohan Unniyal ( Gate Keeper Uphaar) and against acquittal of N S Chopra (Manager Uphaar), A K Gera ( DVB), N D Tiwari & Shyam Sunder Sharma ( MCD)
AVUT filed an appeal for alteration of charge to 304 IPC against Sushil Ansal & Gopal Ansal.
August 2010 to February 2012 : Matter on board in Supreme Court .8 adjournments sought by Ansals
16.02.2012 to 17.04.2013: Criminal Appeal taken up for hearing.
(Hearing goes on for over a year)
17.04.2013: Judgment reserved.
March 5th 2014 : Judgment pronounced. Sushil Ansal , Gopal Ansal & H S Panwar convicted u/s 304 A , 337 & 338 & section 14 of Cinematograph Act. Though the judges concurred on the findings but there was a dissent with regards to sentencing and the matter was referred to three judge bench. It is one year and three months order on sentencing is still pending which is unprecedented.
NOTE: AVUT moved three applications for early hearing between October 8th 2014 to January 22 2015. CBI also moved an application for early hearing 22nd January 2015. The matter was finally taken up on April 21st 2015. An adjournment was sought on behalf of Ansals.
TAMPERING WITH JUDICIAL RECORDS – PENDING IN CMM’S COURT, PATIALA HOUSE
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 as accused:
- 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: High Court 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.
NOTE: Revision has been filed by Sushil Ansal , Gopal Ansal, D V Malhotra & Anoop Singh against the order framing charges in the court ASJ , Patiala House. There is no stay on trial.
Trial is proceeding in the court of CMM and only one witness has been examined in the last one year. Next date of hearing 06.07.2015
COMPLAINT CASE W.R.T. 506 ,509,188 & 120B IPC
10.05.2007: An application was filed by Neelam Krishnamoorthy before the Ld Trial Court of Ms Mamta Sehgal, ASJ in the case titled CBI v/s Sushil Ansal .
The Ld ASJ forwarded the application to the ACMM which was registered as a Complaint and the statement of the complainant and other witnesses were recorded.
19.06.07: Ld ACMM summoned Sushil Ansal , Gopal Ansal ,Praveen Sharma , Deepak Kathpalia u/s 188,506,509 read with section 120-B IPC
03.07.2007: Gopal Ansal & Praveen Sharma moved High Court u/s 482 and an ex parte stay was granted. Subsequently Sushil Ansal & Deepak Kathpalia also moved the High Court and were granted stay
03.03.2015 : Arguments were heard and judgment reserved .
AMOD KANTH: SUMMONED AS AN ACCUSED IN UPHAAR FIRE TRAGEDY CASE. – PENDING IN SUPREME COURT FOR WANT OF SANCTION U/S 197 Cr PC
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 sanctions u/s 197 Cr PC has been obtained.
03.10.2013:Hon’ble High Court passed a Judgement in Crl. Misc Petition 2746/10 dismissing the petition of Amod Kanth.
09.11.2013 : Amod Kanth filed an SLP in the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court.
29.11.2013: Supreme Court granted Stay on the trial proceedings.