New Delhi: The Supreme Court has reduced compensation awarded by the Delhi High Court for victims of the 1997 Uphaar cinema fire tragedy, which claimed 59 lives. It has also ruled that the Ansals, who own the hall, will pay a bigger portion of the compensation.
The High Court had in 2003, awarded Rs 18 lakh each for the next of kin of victims over 20 years of age; Rs 10 lakh for victims below 20 years of age; and Rs 1 lakh each to the injured.
The Supreme Court, in its verdict today, reduced that to Rs 10 lakh each for the next of kin of victims over 20 years of age and Rs 7.5 lakh for victims below 20 years of age.
The court also amended the Delhi High Court award to say that the Ansal brothers, who own Ansal Theatre and Clubotels (P) Ltd (ATCL) that ran Uphaar cinema, would pay 85 per cent of the total compensation awarded. The High Court had split the amount thus: 55 per cent to be paid by the Ansals and 15 per cent each by the Delhi Vidyut Board, the Deputy Commissioner Police (Licensing) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
The Supreme Court has set aside the liability of the MCD and the Deputy Commissioner Police (Licensing), transferring it to the Ansals.
The Supreme Court also said that any of the families of victims that were not happy with the compensation, could file an appeal furnishing age proof and an income certificate.
The next of kin of victims are disappointed with today's Supreme Court verdict. Neelam Krishnamurthy, one of the main petitioners and who lost two children in the Uphaar fire, said, "We have been fighting for the last 15 years. Our fight was not about money. We wanted people to safer public places and the only way to do this was by putting pressure on corporate. The corporates are being benefitted by such judgments. So many more Uphaars will happen."
Fifty-nine people had died and 103 were seriously injured when there was a big fire at the Uphaar cinema hall, in the heart of south Delhi, while the film Border was being screened on the evening of June 13, 1997. The fire started in an electrical transformer in the basement parking lot of the hall and then engulfed the building in the busy Green Park area. Many people died in the ensuing stampede or were asphyxiated after being trapped in the balcony, as the fire exits were locked.
The Ansal brothers had challenged the High Court order in the Supreme Court in 2004.