More than a decade after 59 people were asphyxiated to death and over a hundred others injured in the Uphaar theatre fire tragedy during the maiden show of blockbuster Border on June 13, 1997, a Delhi court on Tuesday reserved its verdict in the case of criminal negligence associated with the tragedy.
Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal reserved the verdict after conclusion of arguments by counsel of various parties, including those of the prosecuting agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and building tycoons Ansal brothers - Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, who owned the theatre.
Judge Mamta Sehgal, however, did not fix a date for the pronouncement of her verdict in the case.
During its arguments, which concluded Monday, the CBI had sought to impress upon the court that the Ansal brothers could not escape the charges of their criminal culpability and murderous lapses of the incident, which left 59 people dead.
Appearing for the CBI, senior counsel Harish Salve contended that Ansal brothers, being the owners of the theatre, owed the responsibility of installing fire safety measures.
But the theatre instead had installed extra chairs in balcony and had permanently closed one of its exit doors, blocking the easy escape route out of the theatre in cases of eventuality, which proved fatal for 59 people when the fire erupted in the theatre.
The blocking of exit routes had turned the theatre into a gas chamber on the fateful day leading to deaths due to asphyxiation, said Salve, adding that Ansal brothers, who benefited from the theatre, could not escape the charges of murderous lapses.
Earlier, while concluding their argument on August 8, the counsel for Ansal brothers had pleaded innocence and said that the lapses by the company could not be transferred to them.
The prosecution had alleged that the accused were directly and criminally negligent in the management of the theatre.
Initially, 16 people were named as accused, including the owners of the cinema hall and they were charged with causing death by negligence, endangering life. Four accused died during the trial.
The accused in the case included Public Works Department engineer SN Dandona, cinema hall director RM Puri, its managers KL Malhotra, RK Sharma, NS Chopra and Ajit Chaudhary, erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board officials AK Gera, BM Satija and Beer Singh, MCD officials N.D. Tiwari and Shyam Sunder Sharma, Delhi Fire Service officials HS Panwar and Surinder Dutt, besides the hall's balcony attendant Manmohan Unniyal.