'Uphaar ruling will embolden firms to flout norms for profit'

'Uphaar ruling will embolden firms to flout norms for profit'

On a day the apex court ordered real estate baron Gopal Ansal to serve one year jail term in connection with Uphaar cinema fire case, Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two teenage children in the 1997 tragedy, today said the judgment has "shaken" her faith in judiciary.

Krishnamoorthy, also convener of Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), also said it will set a "bad precedent" and "embolden" other big firms to flout safety norms for profit.

"I am very disappointed on the judgment. It has been 20 years since that tragedy and I hope they had understood the pain and anguish of people, who lost their family members.

"Is this democracy? I think the law of the land is such that only a rich few enjoy special power and nothing for the ordinary people. The judgment has shaken my faith in the judiciary," she said.

Recalling the painful memories, Krishnamoorthy said her daughter Unnati (17) and son Ujjwal (13) were so excited to see the movie, not knowing it would be their last.

"Had they been alive, I would have probably been a grandmother now. Unnati, a student of DPS R K Puram had just got her results and she wanted to pursue her career as Company Secretary, so she had applied to all the colleges in DU," she said.

She said her son, a student of DPS, Mathura Road, wanted to pursue his career in marine engineering. "We were already dealing with our emotional trauma and now this judgment comes as a shocker," she said.

The tragedy took place on Friday June 13, 1997 when film 'Border' was playing at the theatre in south Delhi's Green Park area. 59 people had died of asphyxia.

"First, Uphaar happened and so many other fire tragedies since. Recently, SUM Hospital in Odisha was another such case. Are we making our public places, theatres and hospitals safer? I don't think any lessons have been learned. And, this judgment will embolden big corporate houses in flouting norms for profit, feeling they can get away," she said.

The apex court, in a majority 2:1 verdict, asked Gopal Ansal to surrender within four weeks to serve the remaining jail term of the one year punishment.

However, the court gave relief to his elder brother Sushil Ansal considering his advanced age by giving him the jail term already undergone by him, including the remission, in the case.

The majority verdict pronounced by Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Kurian Joseph said that fine of Rs 30 crore each imposed on Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal by the apex court earlier was "not excessive".

CBI and AVUT had sought review of the apex court verdict, delivered on August 19, 2015, sending Ansal brothers to two years rigorous jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each within three months. The convicts have already paid the fine.

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