Fourteen years later, families of 59 persons who lost their lives in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy still await justice. On the anniversary of the tragedy on Monday, Association of the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) held an emotional prayer meeting outside the now sealed movie hall in south Delhi’s Yusuf Sarai.
AVUT president Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost two of her children in the fire said: “A rankling sense of injustice still prevails... the curtains haven’t come down on the court case. The struggle to ensure safety in public spaces and create accountability for innocent lives lost still remains a distant dream.”
It was during the first day matinee show of the Hindi film, Border, on June 13, 1997 that a fire, spreading from a faulty transformer, snuffed out 59 lives Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear, on July 27, a petition filed by victims’ families, seeking enhancement of the sentence of a “mere” one year jail term given to cinema hall owners and business tycoons Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal by the Delhi High Court on December 19, 2009. Both of them are now out on bail.
The court, at the same time, will also hear appeals filed by the Ansals against the sentence.
AVUT members are angry that even after the Ansal brothers were slammed by the Delhi High Court on December 19, 2009 for not ensuring the safety of cinegoers and completely disregarding “corporate social responsibility,” it reduced the already light two-year sentence given to them by the trial court in 2007 to one year.
Also referring to the Bhopal gas tragedy, Krishnamoorthy said, “In July 2009, AVUT petitioned the President of India, the Congress President and the Law Minister, proposing a legislation to prevent man-made tragedies in public places. For over two years, the matter has been pending with the Law Commission”.
“In March 2011, AVUT gave fresh inputs to the Law Commission but in the absence of strong legal deterrents that can instill fear in the minds of those who willfully or casually inflict them, such harm continues,” she added.