A Delhi court on Tuesday, 19 July, ordered the release of real estate business persons and brothers Gopal and Sushil Ansal against the jail term they had already served in a case of alleged tampering of evidence in connection with the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire, in which 59 people had died.
This comes a day after the court had dismissed the appeal filed by the business persons and two others against the judgment of a magisterial court that had given the brothers a seven-year jail sentence in November 2021. They had been in prison since the judgment.
While District Judge Dharmesh Sharma ordered their release, he upheld the fine of Rs 2.25 crore imposed on the Ansals individually by the magisterial court, as per news agency PTI.
Addressing Neelam Krishnamoorti, chairperson of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, the judge said, "We empathise with you. Many lives were lost, which can never be compensated. But you must understand that penal policy is not about retribution. We have to consider their age. You have suffered, but they have also suffered."
'No Justice for Ordinary Citizens': Krishnamoorthy
Krishnamoorthy, whose children Unnati, 17, and Ujjwal, 13, were killed in the Uphaar fire tragedy, told The Quint, "The judge feels the Ansals have done eight months (in jail) and that’s good enough. They are the Ansals, they are moneyed people. Ordinary citizens like us don’t even have right to justice in this country. The Supreme Court did the same thing to us."
She also said the judge cited the brothers' old age, but there are/were many who remained behind bars despite their advanced age and were not given bail.
"It’s always old age for the Ansals. There are so many behind bars who are or were old – Stan Swamy, for instance. What about OP Chautala (former Haryana CM)? What’s so special about the Ansals?" she questioned.
'Made a Mistake by Going to the Courts'
Further, Krishnamoorti said that the judiciary had let her down, adding that courts were not for ordinary citizens.
"I think I made the mistake of going to the Courts. First, the Supreme Court let us down, and now the sessions court has let us down. I think they don’t want to give justice to families of victims of Uphaar tragedy. Courts are not for ordinary citizens. I am shocked by what happened today," she said.
The fire had broken out in the Uphaar cinema on 13 June 1997 during the screening of Hindi film Border. At least 59 people were killed and 100 injured amid the incident.
The alleged tampering of evidence by the Ansal brothers came to the limelight in July 2002, after which a departmental inquiry was launched into the incident.
After serving two years in jail, the Supreme Court in August 2015 had allowed the Ansals to walk free and asked them to pay a fine of Rs 30 crore each, which would be utilised to build a trauma centre in the national capital.
In 2019, the court had issued a non-bailable warrant against the two in a case of alleged tampering of evidence, the verdict for which was pronounced in November 2021.
(With inputs from PTI.)