13 June : Families of Uphaar victims on Saturday observed the 12th anniversary of the cinema hall fire tragedy, which claimed 59 lives, and demanded a suitable legislation to tackle such man-made disasters and firmly punish the offenders.
The families also resolved to fight for enhancing the punishment of culprits, as they felt that the sentence given to them was "not sufficient".Members of 28 families, who lost 59 of their loved ones assembled at ‘Smriti Uphaar’, the memorial in south Delhi’s Green Park, and performed a ‘havan’ for the departed souls.
"The past 11 years have been an excruciating legal battle for us and a rankling sense of injustice tortures us," Neelam Krishnamoorthy of Association of Uphaar Tragedy Victims said.
Fifty-nine people were killed when a fire broke out in Uphaar cinema hall during the matinee show on the first day of the release of Hindi movie ‘Border’ on 13th June, 1997.
In November 2007, a Delhi court convicted all 12 accused, including theatre owners Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, guilty of gross negligence.However, the sentence of the Ansals were reduced to one year from two years.
She said the verdict to reduce the sentence has "further traumatised and victimised" the families when they realise that the people responsible for the tragedy have been let off with a mere one year sentence.
"The families of the deceased have resolved that they will continue their fight for justice," Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two teenaged children in the tragedy, said.
Noting that victims have no role in criminal justice system, she alleged that policy-makers are very concerned about the reform, rehabilitation and rights of the accused but victims who have suffered at the hands of the accused are totally neglected.
"The offenders of such crimes are often booked for causing death due to rash and negligent acts, which is a bailable offence. The need of the hour is to have appropriate legislation to tackle such man-made tragedies and put in place appropriate judicial mechanisms that offenders think twice before indulging in acts of omission and commission that can endanger human life," she added.