The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Ansal brothers, convicted for the Uphaar tragedy of 1997 to walk free.
In what many would call a disappointing turn of events for the Association of Victims of Uphaar Fire Tragedy the court slapped a fine for Rs 30 crore on each brother while announcing no sentence.
The fine has to be paid over the course of three months to Delhi government and no orders have yet been announced regarding its allocation. An additional fine of Rs 10 lakhs has been imposed on the theater’s fire officer.
The tragic fire had taken place on 13 June 1997 in Uphaar cinema in South Delhi claiming the lives of 59 people and injuring over a hundred. Investigations found that a faulty transformer had started the fire, which caught onto the overcrowded car park and spread to the cinema hall.
Most deaths were due to asphyxiation or the stampede that ensued. A series of unfortunate but avoidable events exaggerated the damage and were eventually used to convict the Ansal brothers for causing death due to negligence.
They have so far only served a few months of their original sentence, despite the theatre having had run in brazen violation of safety norms for 14 years before the incident, and no stranger to fires.
The outrage on the verdict is such that it appears to be the the second tragedy to hit the families of Uphaar victims.
Neelam Krishnamurty, who lost both her children to the fire said “I trusted the judicial system for 18 years, but I am sorry to say that I don’t trust it any more” echoing the sentiments of all those who lost loved ones and had strived to bring the guilty to account.
Social activist Neelam Katara too went on record to say that it was a sad day for the country.Victims say that the time has certainly not lessened their pain of Uphaar but the judiciary seems to have allowed big money yet again to walk over people’s faith in justice.