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Justice delayed is justice denied

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59 people died. More than 100 people were seriously injured. Nearly 20 years later, the reparation for that is Rs. 60 crores for the Delhi Government. The fire happened in 1997. In 2008, the accused (which included the Ansal brothers) were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment by the Trial Court. In 2008, the Delhi High Court upheld the conviction of six of the accused, but reduced the imprisonment of the Ansal brothers to one year. An appeal was filed before the Supreme Court by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy ‘(AVUT’) and the CBI for enhancement of sentence of the Ansal brothers. Finally, in August 2015, the Apex Court has held that keeping in mind the advanced ages of the two brothers (67 and 75) and the few months that they have each already spent in jail, a fine of Rs. 60 crores will suffice. With that paid, the brothers shall finally walk free now. This money is to be used to build a trauma centre. It maybe noted that the compensation payable to victims/ next of kin was fixed by the Supreme Court in 2011 at Rs. 10 lacs each for the next of kin of victims above 20 years of age, and Rs 7.5 lakh for victims under 20 years.

As the management of the company which owned the cinema, the Ansal brothers allowed the installation of the transformer (which malfunctioned and started the fire) in the cinema premises in complete violation of Electricity Rules. There were various structural deviations inside the theatre and in the cinema building which were in complete violation of safety and building provisions and obstructed the quick exit of people in the theatre which fact. The Ansal brothers were ably assisted by the various government officials who turned a blind eye to the deviations in the building. The concerned officials from MCD, Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi Fire Service as well as some employees of the cinema were also convicted and sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 2 – 7 years. The fire occurred on 13th June 1997. The matter has finally come to a close in August 2015, i.e., nearly 20 years later. For the past 18 years, the AVUT and CBI has been running back and forth from the Trial Court to the High Court to the Supreme Court trying to get justice for the victims. The matter was lengthened for so long because of the delaying tactics adopted by the Ansals. Where is the justice in this? Have they been targeted because they are rich as they have so claimed? Was the Uphaar tragedy really an accident? I am not saying that they started the fire, but I definitely say and believe that in a bid to generate a little more money, the Ansals knowingly violated several norms where the exit points were obstructed by increasing seats in the theatre, aisles were blocked, other tenants were permitted in the building to set up their shop/ counter in landings and passageways which blocked the passages, allowing a second transformer to be installed without any permissions, allowing cars to be parked very close to the transformers, and were well aware that such deviations could result in the death of people in case of  any tragedy. Their indifferent bending of the rules to suit their needs is what shows their callous negligent attitude, along with the able backing of the MCD, Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi Fire Services. There are no mitigating factors in the instant case – they dragged on the proceedings, they bickered on the compensation payable to the victims, they offered no words of sympathy or apology to the next of kin, they never took any responsibility for the fire, they offered no ex gratia compensation, the evaded arrest. Lesser mortals than the Ansals would have been stuck in jail for a very long time.

The surplus profit of Ansal Buildwell Limited for FY 2013-14 is Rs. 482.36 lacs while Ansals API declared a profit of Rs. 1353 lacs in FY 2013-14. The CMD of Ansals Buildwell is Gopal Ansal. The Chairman of Ansals API is Sushil Ansal. Will Rs. 30 crores really make such a difference to them today? The SC order has set a very wrong precedent. Break a few laws, be callous when you have caused the death of nearly 60 people, drag on legal proceedings and finally, throw money at the problem to make it all go away. Justice delayed is indeed justice denied.

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Written by SupMM

August 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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