THE VERY sight of all the 10 accused facing jail sentence of up to ten years going back home after their conviction raised quite a few eyebrows at the Patiala House court complex on Tuesday.
The relatives of victims had expected the accused to be taken into custody immediately after the pronouncement of the judgment, as is the case with most cases.
Vikas Pahwa, a lawyer for the victims, said: “Though all the accused were on bail, the judge had the discretion to cancel the bail and order that they be taken into custody forthwith. Conviction means charges against them have been proved. Who will be held responsible if some of them abscond or are not available tomorrow when the quantum is to be pronounced?”
As for the Ansals, there were no surprises as they were convicted only under Section 304 A (causing death due to a rash and negligent act), which attracts a maximum sentence of only two years and is also bailable.
However, Prem Kumar, a senior lawyer representing the Ansals, said: “The court has a right to cancel bail only in case of stiffer offences. The Ansal brothers have been convicted for lesser offences. Secondly, they have been on bail throughout.
Stiffer punishment a deterrent: AVUT
The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) president Neelam Krishnamoorthy said charging the owners of a property that causes fire and casualties with the stiffer Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) would be an effective deterrent and convey a strong message that no one is above the law, adding it would have a bearing on similar trials going on in many states across the country.
She pointed out that a court in Tamil Nadu had recently sentenced the owner of a private mental asylum in Ramanathapuram under the stricter provision after 25 patients died in a fire. The inmates had been chained to poles, in contravention of all mental health laws.