Ansals held guilty in Delhi's Uphaar cinema fire case

Ansals held guilty in Delhi's Uphaar cinema fire case

Sentence to be decided by three-judge bench

Ansals held guilty in Delhi's Uphaar cinema fire case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held real estate barons Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire case that claimed the lives of 59 people and said they showed scant regard for people and civic laws.

The apex court rejected their plea that they were not in control of the affairs of the company which ran the cinema hall after noting that not even one of the 5,000 shares was held by anyone other than the Ansal brothers.

A bench of Justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Misra said the convicts were more interested in making money, realising little that they owed a duty towards people as well.

The two judges, however, disagreed over the quantum of punishment to be handed down to them and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India for consideration before a three-judge bench for pronouncing the final verdict on it. Justice Thakur retained one-year jail term of Sushil and Gopal Ansal as imposed by the Delhi High Court, while Justice Misra reduced the jail term to the time already undergone by Sushil considering his age but enhanced the sentence of Gopal to two years.

Justice Misra also imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Ansal brothers to be used for construction of trauma centre and super-speciality hospital at Dwarka here, which would be treated as extension of Safdarjung Hospital. 

The bench also concurred in its finding that there was contemptuous disregard for civic laws on the part of Ansals. It noted that 59 people perished in the tragedy and almost all of them died due to asphyxiation as the doors of the theatre showing the Hindi movie “Border” were closed. 

“Failure to exit was the immediate cause of death,” Justice Thakur said pronouncing his part of the verdict. Hearing the apex court’s verdict upholding conviction of Ansals, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, representing them, stood up to seek time from the court for putting forward arguments on quantum of sentence. 

But the court told him about divergence of view held on quantum of sentence and matter being referred to the three-judge bench. During over 70-minute-long proceedings, Justice Thakur read out most part of the voluminous judgments.