19 years after Uphaar tragedy, victims’ families seek justice

New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) It’s been 19 years since a fire killed their loved ones, but the families of the victims of the Uphaar cinema tragedy are still seeking justice even today.

Neelam Krishnamoorthy, President of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), is still fighting the legal battle against the owners of the cinema hall, the Ansal brothers.

“We (AVUT) are very disappointed. We started this battle almost 19 years ago with a lot of hope of getting justice. We had thought that the law of the land is same for everyone. But it doesn’t seem so,” Krishnamoorthy told IANS.

In November 2007, a trial court had sentenced the Ansal brothers to two-year rigorous imprisonment. However, in December 2008, the Delhi High Court reduced their sentence to just one-year jail term.

The Supreme Court’s verdict on August 19, 2015 discontinued the prison sentence of brothers Gopal and Sushil Ansal who were ordered to pay compensation of Rs 60 crore to the Delhi Government. Considering their age and the period already spent by them in the prison, the apex court decided not to send them back to jail.

In January this year, the Supreme Court agreed to conduct an open court hearing on the matter. However, the hearing is yet to be conducted.

“The Chief Justice of India assured the counsel appearing for AVUT that the review plea would be listed for hearing after Holi. As the matter was not listed, 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 of the plea during upcoming summer vacation. Unfortunately, no order has been passed,” Krishnamoorthy said.

“The court allowed them (Ansal brothers) to walk free considering their age. But what about those who have been fighting the legal battle for 19 years? Twenty-three children had died in that horrific accident including a 30-day-old child. I feel defeated,” she added.

Krishnamoorthy, who was then 38 years old, lost two of her children — a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son.

The tragedy took place on June 13, 1997 when a fire broke out at Uphaar cinema during the screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’. Around 60 people died and over 100 were injured due to suffocation in the theatre as the escape routes were blocked by illegally fixed extra seats.

–IANS

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