On the 16 anniversary of the Uphaar fire tragedy, which had snuffed out 59 innocent lives, relatives, friends and family members of those killed and injured have fervently appealed to the country’s policy-makers to implement stringent laws to avert such tragedies in future. The next of kin of the deceased and the injured, who had united under the banner of the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) and are still fighting in the courts to get justice for their loved ones, on Thursday said: “The need of the hour is to have appropriate legislation to tackle such man-made tragedies and put in place judicial mechanisms that force offenders to think twice before indulging in acts of omission and commission that can endanger human life.”

Association president Neelam Krishnamoorthy said: “In 2009, AVUT appealed to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to bring in a new legislation to deal with man-made disasters.” But lamenting that “no concrete steps have been taken by the government so far”, Ms. Krishnamoorthy wondered if “the life and safety of citizens is not a priority” for it.

She also mentioned that despite the Supreme Court’s directions in its judgment in the Uphaar Fire Tragedy case on October 13, 2011, to bring in appropriate legislation to deal with claims in public law for violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed to citizens at the hands of the state and its officials, no steps have been taken to bring in a legislation. “Our law-makers have not learnt from their counterparts in other countries who have dealt sternly and swiftly with such tragedies,” she said.

She said be it the “recent judgment by an Italian court in the Asbestos case, where the court has sentenced  the accused to 18 years in jail and has ordered him to pay tens of millions of Euros to local authorities  and the victim’s family; or the owner of the República de Cromañón nightclub in Buenos Aires being sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2004 blaze that killed 194 music fans, these verdicts are in sharp contrast to the conservative judgments passed by our courts”. The AVUT president made particular mention of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in which perpetrators of the crime have been charged under Section 304A IPC, which has a maximum punishment of a mere two years.

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