Eighteen years on, Upahar tragedy victims still wait for justice
news Sunday, June 14, 2015 - 05:30
The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) on Saturday observed the 18th anniversary of the incident in which 59 people who were watching a film lost their lives, amidst regrets that their "relentless" efforts to get justice are yet to reach their logical conclusion. The tragedy saw 59 people perishing in a fire that engulfed Uphaar cinema hall on June 13 ,1993. Uphaar cinema is owned by real estate giant Ansal builders. The Ansal brothers - Sushil and Gopal - were convicted for the fire tragedy. The Supreme Court on March 5, 2014, had upheld their conviction but the question of quantum of sentence was referred to a three-judge bench following a split verdict on the sentencing between Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra (since retired). "It is with deep pain and despair we inform our well-wishers that despite following the case relentlessly for the past eighteen years, AVUT has failed in its endeavour," said the statement issued by Neelam Krishnamoorthy, president of AVUT. The statement said that "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." "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," said the statement. Expressing their disappointment with the delay in the pronouncement of Ansals's sentencing, Krishnamoorthy said, "While the accused in our country manage to get an early hearing and also get relief, the victims continue to suffer." "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," the statement said. Justice Thakur upholding the Delhi High Court verdict had said that both Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal would undergo a sentence of one year each as awarded by the high court. Justice Misra, holding that "no leniency can be shown" said that Ansals should undergo the maximum sentence of two years as provided under Section 304A of IPC. However, Justice Misra had substituted the second year sentence with a fine of Rs.100 crore to be imposed equally on the two brothers. Justice Misra had said that this money would be used to set up a Trauma Centre at Dwarka which does not have any government medical facility. The trauma centre which would be an extension of Safdarjung Hospital will also have a super specialty wing and a burns ward. Justice Misra had said that in case Ansals fail to pay the fine of Rs. 100 crores , then their assets Uphaar Cinema and other places around it would be auctioned to realise the money. Keeping in view the advanced age of Sushil Ansal, Justice Misra had said that his sentence would be the one that he has already undergone. The trial court had awarded the Ansal brothers two years' imprisonment but it was reduced to one year by the high court in 2008.