Rich people can get away by paying money but it is a different story for the ordinary citizens, Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the mother of two teenagers who were killed in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy, said on Wednesday.
Reacting to a Supreme Court order allowing the Ansal brothers to walk free by paying Rs 60 crore as fine, Krishnamoorthy, who led the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), said: “I am very much disappointed. Eighteen years back, I lost faith in God and 18 years later I lost faith in judiciary.”
“One thing which I have realised is that the court of law is not same for the rich and the poor. Rich people can get away by paying money but for ordinary citizens, judiciary is different,” Krishnamoorthy said after the order.
Real estate barons Ansals, who owned the south Delhi cinema hall and were found guilty of negligence, would not be jailed, with the court treating the time spent by them in jail as sentence served, rejecting the CBI and victim families’ plea to send the two back to jail. While Sushil, 75, spent five months in jail, Gopal, 67, was behind bars for four months immediately after the June 13, 1997 tragedy.
“Had it been the lives of children of politicians and judges, justice would have been done within a year,” she said, adding that the judiciary “cannot understand the plight of a mother who has stood 18 years before the court to get disappointment. Nobody cares about ordinary people but rich and powerful get away.”
She said the tragedy, in which 59 lives were lostduring the screening of blockbuster film Border, was due to the “wilful negligence” of the theatre owners who risked the lives of the movie-goers for pecuniary gain.
The owners, an investigation had found, added extra seats that blocked one of the exits, preventing the victims – 23 of them were minors -- from escaping the burning hall after a fire broke out in the transformer room. Most of the victims were asphyxiated.
“It was a murder by willful negligence. It was like a mass murder. When one person is killed the offender is awarded life sentence or 10-14 years in jail, but here they are getting away by paying money. My children died because Ansals created extra seats to make some money,” Krishnamoorthy said.
The Supreme Court said the Ansals would deposit the fine in three months and this amount would be utilised by the Delhi government. The fine would be accompanied by the jail sentence the brothers have already undergone.
The court not only reduced the fine to Rs 30 crore each, it also rejected the CBI plea for the two brothers to serve the remaining jail term.