1997 Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy Was Culpable Homicide: Senior Advocate KTS Tulsi

1997 Uphaar Cinema Fire Tragedy Was Culpable Homicide: Senior Advocate KTS Tulsi

The Uphaar Cinema fire in Delhi's Green Park area claimed 59 lives and left over 100 injured

New Delhi:  The Uphaar fire tragedy was culpable homicide which was reduced to that of mere negligence.

This was how legal veterans revisited the 1997 blaze at the cinema hall which had claimed 59 lives and left over 100 injured during the screening of Bollywood film 'Border'.

Speaking at the launch of a book "Trial by Fire" written by the parents of two teenagers who were killed in the tragedy, Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate KTS Tulsi, who has been the counsel for the victims, also stressed the need to have a well-cultivated law of torts on such matters, a view shared by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who said the wrongdoer must be heavily penalised.

"Such incidents of fire are culpable homicides which have been reduced to mere negligence," Mr Tulsi, who was one of the panelists in the discussion at the book launch event, said, adding that the culprits must be made to pay for it.

"Wherever law of torts has developed, it has resulted in awarding massive awards of millions and billions of dollars and they have broken the backs of organisations guilty of culpable homicide. But here we lost the opportunity," Mr Tulsi, who has been the counsel for Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) initiated by victim parents Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, said.

A tort, in common law parlance, is a civil wrong that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the act.

Expressing a similar view, Mr Hegde said "When something goes wrong, make the fellow hurt. Hurt where it hurts his pocket the most," adding that a fine of Rs 60 crore was a huge sum but for Ansals it was a petty amount.

Explaining the incident as a case of gross criminal negligence on part of the accused builders, Mr Tulsi said, "We asked for Rs 100 crore as compensation, but the Court said it can't permit a tragedy to become a windfall."

Earlier this year, the Supreme court's three-judge bench comprising justices AR Dave, Kurian Joseph and AK Goel had decided to hear in an open court, the petitions filed by CBI and AVUT seeking review of its 2015 verdict by which Sushil and Gopal Ansal were required to serve two-year jail term if they failed to pay Rs 30 crore each. The Ansals had deposited the amount.

Recalling the legal battle, Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy said the lesson from the Uphaar case is that the prosecution agency should not compromise.

"Prosecuting agency should not compromise. We were happy with Delhi Police but the case was transferred to CBI. The moment case was transferred to CBI, the charge was reduced from 304(II)(culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC," Neelam Krishnamoorthy claimed.

The authors of the book had lost their kids - Unnati (17) and Ujjwal (13) - in the fire tragedy in Uphaar theatre in Green Park area of South Delhi on June 13, 1997. A total of 59 cinegoers had died of asphyxia and over 100 were injured in the subsequent stampede.

The book was launched by popular singer Shubha Mudgal which was followed by a panel discussion.

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