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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

Apology for Uphaar fire tragedy, 15 yrs late

Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 04, 2012
First Published: 23:54 IST(4/10/2012) | Last Updated: 10:57 IST(5/10/2012)

In the Supreme Court, Uphaar cinema owner Sushil Ansal apologised on Wednesday - for the first time - a good 15 years after the fire that killed 59 people on June 13, 1997.

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Sushil Ansal, the eldest of the three Ansal brothers, walked up in the packed courtroom to Neelam Krishnamurthy, who lost her teenaged daughter and son in the tragedy, and apologised.

"I apologise to them with folded hands. I am ready to give even my blood to them. We accept we have done wrong. Your pain is enormous. We understand your pain. Even I have children. My family is also suffering because of this case," he told Krishnamurthy, who spearheaded the legal battle against the Ansals, the erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board, MCD and Delhi Police by forming the Association for Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT).

Krishnamurthy has kept her children's room as it was on the day of the fire, which happened when Bollywood blockbuster Border was being screened.

In a half-an-hour conversation with the judges, a rare occurrence, Krishnamurthy told a bench of justice TS Thakur and justice Gyan Sudha Misra that the owners had publicly apologised for the first time.

She said she had been threatened for having led the legal battle and also challenged the Ansals to return at least five of the 59 lives lost in the tragedy.

The AVUT's legal fight was not about money but to ensure such tragedies did not happen and the corporate sector invested to ensure the safety of such structures, she added.

When HT contacted Krishnamurthy, she refused to comment.

Ram Jethmalani, the Ansals' defence counsel, said: "Sushil Ansal got very emotional. He said what he wanted to and apologised for the incident. But then, it wasn't his fault."

The Ansals have petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging a Delhi high court verdict sentencing them to a year's imprisonment.

The AVUT wants the Ansals convicted of an offence that attracts a jail term that can go up to 10 years.


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