The kin of victims who perished during the Uphaar cinema hall fire said they were unhappy and disillusioned with the Supreme Court’s Thursday judgment sending city-based builder Gopal Ansal, 69, to a year in prison.
Gopal’s brother Sushil Ansal, 77, was however, given a reprieve in consideration of his old age.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost both her children in the tragedy said, “The court let off Sushil Ansal on the basis of his age and medical condition. That is unacceptable. We know how many aged criminals have been languishing in jail for years. Why was such relief granted to him? This is an accused friendly system.”
Neelam, who has spearheaded the campaign to get justice for the victims of the tragedy, said they will explore their legal options and fight on by filing a curative petition in court.
A curative petition allows an aggrieved person to challenge an order of the Supreme Court, after dismissal of their review petition.
“When the gatekeeper of Uphaar and employees of Delhi Vidyut Board were handed two-year jail sentences, how can the quantum of punishment for the prime accused be less? Justice has been both delayed and denied to us,” Neelam said.
She added that they had sacrificed their business for the cause of justice as they felt they had nothing left in their lives after the tragedy. “We would have been grandparents by now,” Neelam said.
Painfully recalling the tragic day, Neelam said, both Unnati (17) and Ujjwal (13) wanted to watch the matinee show of Bollywood movie Border that had released that day. “I tried to talk them out of it. I even told them that we will watch the movie together. But they insisted ad so I had to book tickets for them. That is one decision I regret till date,” she said.
A spark in an electricity transformer around 5.00pm on the ground floor of the cinema hall caused a fire. The toxic smoke entered the auditorium through the air-conditioning ducts.
“My children would still have escaped, had the Ansals not put additional seats blocking the exit. Around 750 people sitting on the first floor of the cinema managed to escape ,but my children who were in balcony were trapped due to the greed of the owners,” she said.
Satyapal Sudan, 77, who lost seven members of his family said, “I lost all the members of my family. My son, daughter, daughter-in-law and son-in-law and their children had gone to see the movie. If age was a criteria for handing punishments, then the court should have actually increased the quantum because I lost my one-month old grand-daughter in the accident.”
Naveen Sawhney, who lost his only daughter, Tarika, 21, in the fire, said, “I lost my world. My daughter’s marriage was fixed. We were planning to hold an engagement. Later, I got a phone call from a friend about the fire. We rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences only to find Tarika’s body among several other children that had been lined up,” he said.