12 years on, families of Uphaar victims say justice not done


New Delhi : Two court verdicts and 12 years on, families of 59 people who died in a devastating fire in Uphaar Cinema in the capital still feel they have not got justice and pledge to fight for it. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court.

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A fire broke out during the screening of a movie in Uphaar theatre June 13, 1997 claiming 59 lives. On Saturday, the families of the victims will hold a prayer meeting to mark the 12th anniversary of the tragedy.

“The past 12 years have been an excruciating legal battle for the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT). Last year Delhi High Court held the Uphaar management responsible for the tragedy but the sentences of the theatre owners, Sushil and Gopal Ansal, were reduced to one year on the grounds that they are educated, of an advanced age and have no past criminal record. This has just added to our woes,” said Neelam Krishnamurthy, convenor of AVUT and who lost her two teenaged children in the fire.

A trial court in 2007 sentenced Sushil and Gopal Ansal to two years in prison while the rest nine accused were given terms varying from two to seven years.

The high court in December 2008 reduced the sentence of Ansals to one year. The two have been since granted bail by the Supreme Court.

“Our motto is to make sure that all the public places are safe and the high and the mighty should not go scot free after playing with the lives of the innocent people,” Krishnamurthy said.

“We are holding a prayer meeting at Smriti Upvan on Saturday to commemorate the 12th death anniversary of the 59 precious lives lost in the Uphaar fire,” she added.