'Justice not done', say Uphaar victims families

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court verdict of one year sentence on real estate baron Gopal Ansal has come as a "big disappointment", members of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) said on Thursday, adding they have "lost hope" in the judiciary system of the country.

"We are very disappointed, justice is not done. We didn't expect just one year punishment by Supreme Court. We have been fighting for long and now we have lost hope in the judiciary system of our country," Neelam Krishnamoorthy, head AVUT, told IANS.

Family members of the 59 people who died have been fighting for justice for 20 years now, seeking punishment of the Ansal brothers, Gopal and Sushil, co-owners of the Uphaar Cinema Hall.

"It is even more surprising to see the court allowing Sushil Ansal walk away free for the reason of being 75-year-old, while a few days ago the SC announced punishment to a 93-year-old man. Punishment cannot be excused on the basis of age," Naveen Sawhney, member of AVUT, said.

On June 13, 1997, a huge fire broke out in the Uphaar cinema hall which is located in Green Park. Trapped inside, 59 people died of asphyxia while over 100 were injured in a stampede.

While Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy lost both their children, Naveen Sawhney lost his daughter in the incident.

"Today's verdict proved that justice is not meant for the common citizen. It proved people with money have the privilege to get a verdict in their favour. Sushil Ansal can travel abroad, but cannot be punished because he is old," Krishnamoorthy lamented.

"The review petition said the accused need to serve two years of jail, then why the one-year verdict now? There should be no relaxation for criminals on any basis. We will have a joint decision on whether to go for a curative petition," Sawhney pointed out.

The Ansals were held guilty of "criminal negligence" but had earlier escaped jail terms beyond a few months.

On Thursday, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Kurian Joseph by a 2:1 majority verdict partially modified an earlier order that said the Ansals would be let off by paying Rs 30 crore each, with the jail sentence already served.

The court pronounced the verdict on pleas seeking a review of its 2015 order.

IANS