Order reserved on Uphaar fire tragedy

November 17th, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Monday reserved its order on the 11-year-old Uphaar fire tragedy that claimed 59 innocent lives following a review petition challenging the trial court’s verdict of last year.Justice Ravinder Bhatt reserved the order after hearing final submissions from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the main accused Ansal brothers, owners of the cinema hall in south Delhi.

The trial court on Nov 20 last year held the Ansal brothers guilty along with three others under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (causing death due to rash and negligent act) and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment.

Seven others, including theatre managers Ajit Chowdhary and Nirmal Chopra, were convicted under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and sentenced to seven years’ jail.

Others convicted under the same section are R.K. Sharma, Manmohan Unniyal (cinema’s gatekeeper), Brij Mohan Satija, A.K. Gera and Bir Singh (all Delhi Vidyut Board officials).

Both the convicts and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) had filed a review peition in the high court.

The high court on Jan 4 had granted bail to the Ansal brothers and two other accused.

However, in September, the Supreme Court cancelled their bail and asked them to complete the sentence awarded to them by the trial court.

The CBI earlier told the high court that the main cause of the tragedy was that a gangway of the cinema hall was closed and the Ansal brothers could not disown responsibility it as they were aware of it.

Concluding his arguments, CBI counsel Harish Salve said: “By closing the gangway, the Ansal brothers violated all rules and regulations and should be prosecuted with harsher penal provisions.”

The CBI also supported the petition filed by AVUT demanding slapping of Section 304 (II) (causing death due to rash and negligent act with full knowledge) on the Ansals, which would entail 10 years in jail.

It had also raised questions over the permission granted for extra seats in the theatre and demanded the then Deputy Commissioner Police Amod Kanth be prosecuted like the Ansal brothers for the fire tragedy.

“It’s a big relief for us. The trial court had taken 11 years to hear the case and the high court took only 26 hearings on regular basis to reserve its order. It’s amazing,” said AVUT convenor Neelam Krishnamurthy.

On the afternoon of June 13, 1997, 59 people, including several women and children, were killed due to asphyxia in a devastating fire that broke out in the cinema hall’s transformer in the basement during the screening of Hindi film “Border”.

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