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Ansals Case: SC verdict on uphaar falls short of expectations

Postby dheerajjain » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:56 am

Justice is delivered very much differently for Super Rich and Influential people. In fact, there is a travesty of Justice by Supreme Court itself. Ansals case proves that. Govt gets money in form of huge taxes and big businessmen their profits. It is common men who suffer and die.

Hindustan Times, Delhi, 23 August 2015 ... 0000001001


A court verdict, particularly in matters pertaining to public safety, serves two important objectives. One, it punishes the guilty, thereby dispensing justice and two, it acts as a deterrent for those who violate safety laws. On both counts, the Supreme Court verdict on the Uphaar case falls far short of expectations.

In a country where service providers blatantly flout safety laws and enforcement agencies look the other way, consumers look up to the courts for bringing about the necessary reforms. The courts in this case did an admirable job of holding Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty of criminal negligence on several counts. . They also came up with guidelines for improving cinema hall safety.

However, by cutting down their sentence to just what they had already spent in jail (four to five months during the legal proceedings) and ruling that a penalty of ` 60 crores to be paid to the Delhi government for a trauma centre would be adequate punishment, the Supreme Court has not only let down the victims and their families, but also all those who want public safety to receive utmost attention in the country.

If you read the judgements of the trial court (which awarded imprisonment of two years), the high court (reduced it to one year) and the Supreme Court in the Uphaar tragedy case, you cannot but demand the most stringent of punishments—the longest possible jail term under the law—for the Ansal brothers. Because what comes out loud and clear is the avarice and the greed of the hall owners and their blatant disregard for public safety and the laws of the land.

At every stage, you see them placing profits over safety, thereby, exposing those who paid to go their cinema hall to high risks. In fact, every time they violated a safety law, they took their customers closer to a disaster. And it did happen on June 13, 1997, killing 59 innocent people and injuring over 100 in the devastating fire that engulfed the cinema building.

What makes their ‘criminal negligence’ so condemnable is the fact that they violated with impunity not just one, but a number of laws aimed at consumer or public safety, fully aware, the consequences of such violations.

The installation of 750 KVA transformer of the Delhi Vidyut Board in the cinema premises in complete violation of electricity rules and in breach of the sanctioned plan of the building was bad enough. But what added to the risk was the parking bay, too close to the transformer.

So much so that when the transformer started sparking and eventually caught fire, it spread to vehicles parked close by and the resultant burning of petrol, diesel and the upholstery material, all produced a highly toxic combination of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other hydrocarbons. And thanks to the structural deviations in the building, the gases moved up towards and into the cinema hall.

But even at this stage, those inside the hall could have escaped to safety, if only the hall owners had complied with the safety provisions mandated under the cinematography Act and provided adequate number of emergency exits. But here too, in order to earn additional revenue, they added more seats, thereby cutting down on exits and gangways.
Even as the victims groped in pitch darkness for the exits, they found the doors locked. This was despite a warning specifically given to Gopal Ansal by the enforcement agencies against such practice. The delay in opening the door thus resulted in many succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning,

Justice demands that those responsible be punished, even if it is after 18 years.
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