Upholding the conviction of Ansal brothers — Sushil and Gopal — in the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a three-judge bench the question of quantum of sentence to be imposed on them. The fire in the theatre had claimed 59 lives.
The two-judge apex court bench hearing the matter on Wednesday was divided on the quantum of punishment.
Justice TS Thakur, upholding a Delhi high court verdict, said the brothers would undergo a sentence of one year each as awarded by the HC. The trial court had awarded the Ansal brothers two years' imprisonment but it was reduced to one year by the high court in 2008.
Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, holding that the Ansals should undergo a sentence of two years, substituted the second year sentence with a fine of Rs 100 crore divided equally between the two brothers.
She also directed that, in view of his advanced age, Sushil Ansal's period of sentence will be one that he has already undergone. This led the kin of some of the victims to call it a travesty.
The Ansal brothers were among 11 held guilty for causing deaths by negligence in the south Delhi cinema hall. The fire in Uphaar cinema in Green Park area broke out after an electrical short circuit, and subsequent investigations found the theatre had violated a slew of fire safety norms which would have otherwise aided evacuations.