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On Uphaar Tragedy Verdict, Victims' Mother Neelam Krishnamurthy Says 'strong Message Sent'

"I have come to the conclusion that they deserve punishment", Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma said, before delivering the historic Uphaar verdict.

Credit-ANI PTI/Represntativeimage

After the pronouncement of the historic Uphaar verdict, chairperson of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) Neelam Krishnamurthy, who lost both her children in the tragedy and waged a long and difficult legal battle for justice, told Republic TV on Monday said that she was elated. Neelam Krishnamurthy pointed out that the court, by giving this verdict, has sent a strong message to the citizens of the country 'to not take the judiciary lightly, to not tamper with evidence, and certainly not intimidate the witnesses' because they would at the end have to pay a price. 

"As a mother who has been fighting for justice for the last 25 years, it is a great thing to happen. Today, all those who lost their lives, including my children, can rest in peace because there is no peace without justice," Neelam Krishnamurthy further said. The statement of Neelam Krishnamurthy comes minutes after a Delhi court announced the verdict in the 1997 case of the Uphaar cinema fire which had claimed 59 lives.

Historic Uphaar verdict

"After thinking over nights and nights, I have come to the conclusion that they deserve punishment", Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma said, adding that the guilt of the real estate barons who owned the Uphaar Cinema Sushil and Gopal Ansal was "proved beyond any reasonable doubt" for the offense of criminal conspiracy, causing disappearance of evidence of offense and criminal breach of trust by the public servant. The judge said that the convicts destroyed critical documents which were capable of proving their complicity in the main case, "making this time the justice dispensation system as the victim."

The Judge awarded 7-year jail terms to the brothers for tampering with evidence in the case. Justice Sharma also imposed a fine of Rs 2.25 crore each on the Ansals. The court also awarded a 7-year-jail term each to former court staff Dinesh Chand Sharma and two others -- P P Batra and Anoop Singh and a fine of Rs 3 lakh each on them. The convicts, out on bail, were taken into custody after the order was pronounced. 

The case was lodged on the direction of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition by Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy. 

Uphaar fire incident- a long legal battle

In the case that dragged into a long legal tangle, a trial court had in 2015 convicted the Ansal brothers. In 2015, the Supreme Court had allowed the Ansal brothers to walk free with a fine of Rs 60 crore to be used for building a trauma center in the national capital. The verdict created an uproar as the Ansal brothers had individually undergone just five to six months imprisonment each. Two other accused, Har Swaroop Panwar and Dharamvir Malhotra, died during the course of the trial.

Two years later, the Supreme Court sent one of the real estate barons Ansal brothers, Gopal, to a year in jail. Partially reviewing its order for the June 13, 1997 tragedy, the SC bench refused to give any incarceration to another accused, Sushil Ansal, taking his age into account.

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