The Supreme Court has dismissed a curative plea filed by victims of the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case, which has enabled the Ansal brothers, Sushil and Gopal Ansal, to escape further jail term in the case. The relatives of the victims have expressed their displeasure over the verdict.
Neelam Krishnamurthy, the mother of a victim and longtime campaigner for justice, said, "The verdict has shattered me as a mother. I had faith in the system, I waited for a quarter-century. The CJI says don't rely on instant justice and I waited for a quarter-century and this is what I get. Sir, we are absolutely shattered and disappointed with the system."
She added, "The court took note of a death of a child in Shaheen Bagh, in Uphaar fire tragedy, 23 children died and the youngest of them was just 30 days old. The Supreme Court has only shown that justice is delivered when there is public outrage or there is pressure from the powerful lobby. Else, for an ordinary citizen, there can be no justice in the country."
Industrialists Sushil and Gopal Ansal owned the Uphaar Cinema which fell victim to one of the deadliest fires in the national capital, killing 59 people in the incident.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has dismissed the curative petitions, filed by the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), pleading for increasing the punishment to Ansal brothers.
Ansal brothers were held guilty of "criminal negligence", and were asked to pay Rs 30 crore each. The money was to be used by the Delhi government for setting up trauma centers or upgrading the existing ones.
The civil liability of compensation decided by the SC in 2011 was Rs 10 lakh each for the family of victims above 20 years of age, and Rs 7.5 lakh for victims under 20 years.
Ansal brothers, owners of the Ansal Theatre and Clubotels (P) Ltd which ran Uphaar cinema, were ordered to pay 85 per cent of the total compensation awarded. In 2007, the trial court sentenced the Ansal brothers to two years in jail but next year the Delhi High Court reduced the sentence by half.
The matter was then placed before the three-judge bench, which said the "ends of justice would meet" if Ansal brothers were made to pay Rs 30 crore each.