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Home > News > Report

Uphaar case verdict adjourned till Oct 22

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | September 05, 2007 08:41 IST
Last Updated: September 05, 2007 11:48 IST

The much awaited verdict in the Uphaar case has been adjourned till October 22, as Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal still has to go through several documents before taking a final decision.

The case pertains to the tragedy that occurred on June 13, 1997, when a fire broke out at the popular theatre during a screening of the film Border. A transformer installed in the basement of the theatre had caught fire.

Wednesday's judgment was expected to decide the fate of the 12 accused, including theatre owners Sushil and Gopal Ansal, who have been charged with causing death by negligence.

Originally, 16 people were named as the accused in the case, but four of them have died in the last ten years. Gopal and Sushil Ansal delayed the hearing by moving the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court on several legal counts, including the compensation to be given to the victims' families.

The trial was expedited after the Delhi High Court directed that it should be concluded by August 2007. The verdict was originally scheduled for August 21, but Judge Sehgal reserved it for September 5.

The CBI examined 115 witnesses, including eight relatives of Ansals who later turned hostile.

The case attracted further attention when a court employee was dismissed from service for tampering with the court documents, allegedly at the behest of the main accused.

The relatives of the victims joined hands to form a body -- Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy -- to fight the legal battle in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. Neelam Krishnamoorthy is the convener of this association, which has fought a relentless battle against the powerful Ansals.

The CBI had contended that the hall owners were directly and criminally negligent in the management of the theatre, in which people died of asphyxia as a result of the fire caused by the Delhi Vidyut Board transformer installed on the ground floor.

Ansals had even claimed that they were not the theatre owners and they were coerced by the DVB to allow the installation of the transformer in the theatre premises.

However, the CBI contended that the owners were liable for the tragedy as the emergency safety measures were not in place. The theatre had turned into a gas chamber as the exit doors of the balcony were closed, and the audience was trapped inside. All the victims dies of asphyxia, said the CBI.

On Wednesday, the court was jampacked with relatives of the victims, media persons and families of the accused. Families of the victims expressed their disappointment with the court's decision, as they have already waited ten years for the judgment.

Talking to the media,  Kamla Bhalla, one of the victims who surived the fire but lost her husband in the incident, alleged that it was a gross mismanagement on the part of the theatre owners. "There were no emergency lights and no one to tell us that the theatre was on fire," she said.

Additional Reportage: PTI