New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday awarded one-year imprisonment to real estate baron Gopal Ansal over the Uphaar theatre fire of 1997. The court has asked him to surrender within four weeks and serve the remaining part of the sentence as he had already served four months jail term earlier.Also Read - Ghar Wali Diwali: Amrapali Homebuyers to Get Possession of Their Flats on Nov 4 | Read Details
However, his elder brother Sushil Ansal has been relieved due to his old age. It’s been a long legal battle for the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy that has been seeking stricter punishment for the Ansal brothers. Also Read - '100 Protesters in Rally And Only 23 Eyewitnesses?' SC Raps UP Govt Over Farmers' Killing in Lakhimpur
Expressing disappointment over the verdict, Neelam and Sekhar Krishnamurthy who had lost their teenaged daughter Unnati and son Ujwal in the tragedy said, “I’m extremely disappointed. I feel the biggest mistake in my life was coming to court. I’ve lost faith in judiciary today.” Also Read - NEET-PG Counselling 2021: Supreme Court Tells Centre to Put NEET-PG Counselling on Hold Until Decision on OBC, EWS Quota
“I have been let down very badly. All this was a futile exercise. It seems that the rich and powerful enjoy special powers and can get away with killing little children.” “We don’t give a damn about the trauma centre. I should’ve shot these people the day my children died,” Krishnamurthy stated further.
Here’s a look at the chronology of events in two-decade old long case:
June 13, 1997: 59 people dead, over 100 injured of asphyxia as fire breaks out during the screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’ at the Uphaar theatre in South Delhi.
July 22, 1997: Delhi Police crime branch arrested theatre owner Sushil Ansal and his son Pranav in Mumbai.
July 24, 1997: The investigation was transferred from Delhi Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
November 15, 1997: CBI files charge sheet against 16 accused including Sushil and Gopal Ansal.
March 10, 1999: A sessions court presided by L D Malik initiates trial.
February 27, 2001: Court frames charges against accused under various sections of Indian Penal Code 304 (culpable homicide), 304 A (causing death by negligent act) and 337 (hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
May 23: Recording of prosecution witnesses’ testimony begins.
April 4, 2002: Delhi HC asks trial court to wrap up the case by December 15.
Jan 27, 2003: Ansals’ plea seeking re-possession of the theatre rejected on the ground that place of incident is to be preserved to appreciate evidence.
April 24, 2003: Delhi High Court awards Rs 180 million compensation to be paid to the relatives of victims.
Sep 4, 2004: Court starts recording statements of accused.
Nov 5, 2005: Recording of testimonies of defence witnesses begins.
Aug 2, 2006: Court concludes recording of testimony of defence witnesses.
Aug 9, 2006: Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Mamta Sehgal inspects the theatre.
Feb 14, 2007: Accused start advancing final arguments.
Aug 21, 2007: Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) approaches Delhi High Court seeking conclusion of trial within a fixed time frame.
Aug 20, 2007: Senior advocate Harish Salve appears for CBI and advances final arguments.
Aug 21, 2007: Judgement reserved. Court fixes September 5 for pronouncement of verdict.
Sep 5, 2007: Court defers pronouncement of verdict and says it would fix the date of judgement on October 22.
Oct 22, 2007: Court fixes November 20 as date of verdict.
Nov 20, 2007: Court convicts all 12 accused, including Sushil and Gopal Ansal, in the case and sentences them to two years imprisonment.
Jan 4, 2008: Delhi High Court grants bail to Ansal brothers and two other accused.
Sep 11, 2008: Ansals sent to Tihar Jail after Supreme Court cancels their bail.
Nov 17, 2008: Delhi High Court reserves trial court order.
Dec 19, 2008: Delhi High Court upholds trial court order convicting Ansal brothers but reduces their sentence from two years to one year.
2009: Supreme Court issues notice on petition filed by AVUT, a platform of victims’ families, for enhancement of sentence and alteration of charges. CBI too files appeal seeking enhancement
April 17, 2013: Supreme Court reserves order on appeals of Ansals, CBI and AVUT
March 5, 2014: Judges differ on sentence. One judge awards one year, another sentences Ansals to term already undergone. Matter referred to three-judge bench
August 11, 2015: Hearing begins on quantum of sentence
August 19, 2015 : Supreme Court allows Ansals to walk free after paying a fine of Rs 30 crore each.
(With the inputs from Agencies)