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Updated: February 16, 2012 14:23 IST

Supreme Court cuts by Rs. 8 lakh compensation for kin of Uphaar fire victims

J. Venkatesan
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A relative of a victim of Uphaar fire tragedy pays tribute at a memorial set up near the cinema hall, in New Delhi. File photo
A relative of a victim of Uphaar fire tragedy pays tribute at a memorial set up near the cinema hall, in New Delhi. File photo

The families of Uphaar fire tragedy victims suffered a major blow with the Supreme Court drastically reducing the quantum of compensation awarded by the Delhi High Court from Rs. 18 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh. In the June 13, 1997 incident in the Delhi cinema, 59 people were killed and 103 sustained injuries.

A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan also reduced the punitive damages payable to the victims by the Ansal brothers, owners of the theatre, from Rs.2.5 crore to Rs.25 lakh. This amount would be shared jointly and severally by the Ansal brothers and the Delhi Vidyut Board.

The Bench said a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh would be paid to each of the families of the deceased above 20 years of age and for the victims under 20, it would be Rs. 7.5 lakh, against Rs. 15 lakh awarded by the High Court. As far as the compensation amount was concerned, the Ansals would pay 85 per cent and the DVB 15 per cent. The Bench was disposing of petitions on award of Rs.18.50 crore compensation by the High Court on April 24, 2003. The Bench held that both the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Delhi Police were not liable to pay any compensation, and absolved them of their liabilities.

On payment of compensation to the injured, the Bench agreed with the High Court's award of Rs. 1 lakh each and gave them liberty to file applications seeking enhancement if they were aggrieved. The Bench directed the cinema owners to follow a set of guidelines to be put in place by the authorities taking note of the recent phenomenon of multiplexes.

It asked the theatres to screen before each show a short documentary of dos and don'ts in case of any emergency arising from a fire.

It directed that theatre staff be properly trained in fire drills and evacuation. There would be a mandatory half-yearly survey of safety measures in theatres by government authorities.

The Bench also suggested that Parliament enact comprehensive legislation on tort, pointing out that at present there was no law governing such claims and liabilities.

While the victims expressed disappointment over the verdict, the Ansal Theatres and Clubhotels Pvt. Ltd (ATCPL), in a statement, said that pursuant to the various orders passed by the Supreme Court it had paid more than Rs. 8 crore as compensation as its share for disbursement. The DVB had also paid its share for disbursement. ATCPL would comply with Thursday's judgment within the stipulated time.

“ATCPL sincerely shares the anguish, pain and grief of the affected families, who lost their loved ones or whose loved ones were injured in the unfortunate tragedy,” the statement said.

Unable to understand the decision of reducing the compensation amount of the Victims to nearly half. The accused were the big business men who have negelected the safety and the security rules. They need to be punished heavily and compensate the victim familes for their negligence. If Stringent punsihment is not given at the earliest by the higher authority, then to whom will the common people like us will turn to for getting justice? Law should be stringent and if anyone who violates law should be punished heavily and should compensate heavily for his negligency at the earliest. If this happens, then only the persons who are responsible for all these will take extra precautions in their work and this type of man made tragedy will not occur in future. Its really disheartening that after a long period of 14 years , this type of judgement is given. By this type of Judgement, it is actually murdering the conciousness of the common people who hope to fight for seeking justice.

from:  Paromita Guha Thakurta
Posted on: Feb 16, 2012 at 10:53 IST

This is really frustrating indeed. I have been scouring the net to search for the reason that the supreme court did this. Can someone please explain ? My faith in the Supreme Court has really been shaken by this judgement.

from:  S Kumar
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 19:08 IST

This is really frustrating. If we are lacking in production, we import to compensate, we import technology and even have a tie up with MNCs. Like this, govt./judiciary can seriously see if they can do the following as they are unable to dispose off cases in a time bound manner. It is high time India should ponder to outsources these three activities - a. investigations to Scotland Yard; b. fast track conducting of trials to the U.S.A. and c. final implementation of such judgments to Saudi Arabia. In the next 5 years country will become a well behaved, corruption free govt offices, Police, judiciary.

from:  Padhu
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 14:58 IST

Sheer travesty of justice. I really don't understand which way is judiciary moving? Yesterday R.K.Sharma (Shivani Bhatnagar case)was released, 35 witnesses turned hostile during his trial and today this horrific judgement on Uphaar. Not to forget the totally insensitive judgement on bhopal gas tragedy last year. Its been 14 years since Uphaar, more than 300 court hearings at several levels - did the judge really gave any thoughts to the pain and sufferings of 59 families who lost their kins? They were not asking for more compensation but demanding justice. Such insensitive judgement are really outrageous and shakes faith of the commonman in the law of the land, which more often than not 'Stands for the Rich'.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 10:08 IST

Living in US, where we see the punitive damages run to millions of dollars for petty issues, this is utterly shocking that the judges have now reduced the "punitive damages"?!! And that too in a case where the defendants blatantly bribed and flouted all the rules that resulted in such a great tragedy. The article also does a great injustice to readers by not describing the reasons behind the reduction but just reports the reduction. If not anything, the damages awarded should go higher and those who are responsible for this tragedy should learn the true meaning of "liability".

from:  Krishnan iyer
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 05:13 IST
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