Long wait for Uphaar case verdict gets longer

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Uphaar fire tragedy victims’ relatives outside the courtroom.
Uphaar fire tragedy victims’ relatives outside the courtroom.

Staff Reporter

Going through records running into thousands of pages would take time, says Judge

NEW DELHI: The families and relatives of the victims of the Uphaar fire tragedy, who were waiting for the verdict with bated breath, will now have to wait some more as the trial court said on Wednesday that it would fix a date for pronouncing the judgment on October 22. The court said it was yet to go through the voluminous documents of the case.

Additional Sessions Judge Mamata Sehgal said going through records running into thousands of pages would take time.

Prime accused Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, the owners of Uphaar cinema who were asked to be present in the court by 10 a.m., reached only around 10-30 a.m. They told the court they were caught in the rush hour traffic.

The Ansals sought entry into the courtroom through the backdoor claiming they were in danger. However, the Judge turned down their request. The defence lawyer filed an application offering to provide any clarification the Judge wanted. The Judge said she did not require any at this stage.

Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) convenor Neelam Krishnamurthy told presspersons that they had waited for justice for more than ten years and are ready to wait out the next couple of months. “I had promised my sons that I would get them justice. If that entails a wait for a couple of months more, so be it,” she said, adding, “It [coming to the court] has become a habit now. But I can understand the delay, as the documents are quite voluminous.”

Her husband Shekhar Krishnamurthy said he was a little surprised at the rather long gap between now and the expected date of verdict. “But all we want is a good judgment that does justice to the victims,” he added.

He said all the 28 families of the victims were together in the fight and though the legal battle would stretch beyond the pronouncement of the verdict, they are all ready to fight it out till the end. “We will fight till death,” he said.

For some others, however, the postponement came as a huge disappointment. “Our friends and relatives have been calling up to find out what happened and then we came to know that the verdict has been postponed. It seems the case could continue for many more years,” said a visibly disappointed Govind Kapur, whose 20-year-old sister Ruby Kapur died in the ghastly tragedy ten years ago. Ruby’s mother Nilu Kapur said such delays would shake the faith in the judiciary.

Fifty-nine persons were killed on the fateful Friday (June 13, 1997) when the devastating fire broke out in Uphaar cinema during the screening of the Hindi film “Border”.

The Central Bureau of Investigation filed a charge sheet in the case on November 15, 1997.

During the course of the trial, the CBI examined 115 witnesses. There were 16 accused in the case, including the Ansal brothers.

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