Uphaar fire tragedy: Ansals are too old to go to jail, rules SC

Releasing its detailed judgment, the bench held that “ends of justice would meet” if the real estate barons pay Rs 30 crore each as fine.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: September 24, 2015 11:38 am
Uphaar tragedy, Supreme Court, Ansal brothers, Neelam Krishnamurthy, Uphaar cinema fire, Uphaar fire, Uphaar Ansal brothers, iecolumnist, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, The Indian Express Uphaar owners Gopal (right) and Sushil Ansal.

Eighteen years after 59 people were killed in a blaze inside Delhi’s Uphaar cinema hall, its owners Gopal and Sushil Ansal, who have been held guilty of “criminal negligence”, have escaped further jail term, with the Supreme Court noting that Sushil is “fairly aged” and his younger brother deserves “parity” with him. Sushil is 75, while Gopal is 67.

“We have noted the fact that as appellant No. 1 (Sushil) is fairly aged, it may not be fruitful to ask him to undergo rigorous imprisonment. On the ground of parity and on the peculiar facts of this case, so far as appellant No. 2 (Gopal) may also not be constrained to undergo the sentence, if he also pays the same amount of fine,” said a three-judge bench led by Justice Anil R Dave.

Watch Video | Uphaar Tragedy: Ansals ‘fairly aged’, don’t need to go to jail, Says SC

Releasing its detailed judgment Wednesday — more than a month after it said in open court that the Ansal brothers did not necessarily need to go back to jail — the bench held that “ends of justice would meet” if the real estate barons pay Rs 30 crore each as fine.

The bench, also comprising Justice Kurian Jospeh and Justice Adarsh K Goel, said the amount of fine can be used either for the purpose of setting up a trauma centre in Delhi or for upgrading existing ones.

Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her daughter Unnati (17) and son Ujwal (13) in the June 13, 1997 incident and had been spearheading the legal battle for the victims, called the development “extremely unfair”.

“The Supreme Court has sent former Haryana Chief Minister O P Chautala to jail for 10 years and he is almost 80 years old. Sahara’s chief Subrata Roy is also 67. If they can be incarcerated by the apex court, why not Ansals? Should an accused be entitled to benefit of advanced age when he can manage to delay the trial? When this incident occurred, Ansal brothers were in their 40s and 50s. It is extremely unfair,” Krishnamoorthy told The Indian Express.

She added that the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy will file a review petition against this judgment.

In its 17-page judgment, the court agreed with the view taken by Justice Gyan Sudha Misra who, by a split verdict of a two-judge bench, had said that the Ansal brothers’ punishment should be enhanced to two years under Section 304A (causing death by rash and negligent act) of the IPC but the sentence should be substituted by “substantial” amount of fine. It was owing to this split verdict that the matter had been referred to the three-judge bench for determining the punishment.

But while Justice Misra had imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Ansal brothers, the three-judge bench reduced it to Rs 60 crore, accepting a plea by their lawyer Ram Jethmalani for slashing the penalty. The judgment, however, did not specify reasons for reducing the penalty amount.

The judgment added: “We are conscious of the fact that a matter of this magnitude may call for a higher sentence, but the court has to limit itself to the choice available under the law prescribing sentence.” But the judgment cited no other reason apart from age for why the Ansal brothers were not being sent to jail under Section 304A, which entails a maximum two-year jail term.

Discussing the principle of sentencing, the court said that an appropriate sentence has to be awarded by taking into consideration the gravity of the offence, the manner of commission, the age of the accused and other mitigating and aggravating circumstances. “The sentence should neither be excessively harsh nor ridiculously low,” it maintained and added that the “facts and circumstances of the case” warranted substitution of jail term with monetary fine.

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  1. R
    R.Mehta
    Apr 20, 2016 at 5:33 am
    After hearing arguments for almost a month in case of Ansals in relation to Uphaar tragedy case ,the judges have converted the sentence to fine of Rs 60 crores .However the only reason given is old age of Ansals.If tbe old age is criteria thsn it should be applivcable to both rich and poor equally. The only problem is that neither the poor have capacity to engage por/good lawyres nor have the ability to pay big sums of amount as fine.However the judges are also bound by the provisions of the various laws/Acts and in those cases where there is provision for imprisonment or fine ,they can impose fine .But if the provisions speaks of imprisonment and fine ,then the term of imprisonment canot be subsuted by heavy fine fact in the present case decision of imposition of fine has been taken by two judge bench and then by three judge bench.It means five judges of Supreme Court had similar view of imposing fine ,instead of sending guilty to jail .But then this kind of reasoning should be adopted consistently for various offences and for all sections of society ,by the Courts .Though the Court may be right in thinking that the amont imposed as fine can be used for spending on something ,which is helpful to large number of people in the society ,but the families of victims have another view ,in view of having lost their near-dears in thelt;br/gt;Unfortunate incident. As now the Court has decided to hear ths reveiw peion in the case ,the court after considering the grounds may or may not change its decision ,which will be known in time to come.
    Reply
    1. N
      Nano narayana
      Sep 24, 2015 at 6:47 am
      Burn the judge!!!
      Reply
      1. A
        Amit
        Sep 24, 2015 at 9:53 am
        Jail them for long. Or the judges have not done their job. Thanks.
        Reply
        1. A
          Agency news
          Sep 24, 2015 at 6:45 am
          That is we call SC as SUPREME CORRUPT OF INDIA!!! There was an SC JUDGE WHO WAS STEALING PF MONEY FOR A LONG TIME. A TV MEDIA SHOWED ANOTHER RETIRED SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE'S PHOTO INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL CRIMINAL SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE OF INDIA. THE SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE SUED THE TV CHANNEL AND ANOTHER SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE GAVE A JUDGEMENT OF RS.100 CRORES AS COMPENSATION TO THAT SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE. NO NEED TO STOP THINKING. THE DEAL WAS THAT BOTH THE SUPREME CORRUPT JUDGE'S SHARED THE BOOTY. THAT IS SUPREME CORRUP OF INDIA. ALL THAT HAPPENED UNDER THE ARGUS EYE OF R&AW, IB, WHICH WERE HELPING THE ITALIAN BCH.
          Reply
          1. A
            Adi
            Sep 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm
            If Ansals are too old to go to Jail inspite of being convicted then why Asaram bapu (being 75 years old) is serving jail sentence since last 2 years even though the CRIME IS NOT PROVED ?? Definitely looks a conspiracy.
            Reply
            1. C
              Caamano
              Sep 24, 2015 at 5:04 am
              Justice is not seen to have done in this case, giving an opportunity to criticise judiciary. Having been a part of the legal system, as a lawyer, I never felt that judiciary is fair. A lot depends on extraneous factors including facial values, politics, of the lawyers you hire. However, I dare say that lower judiciary is more honest than the higher, because higher you go you feel that you are Gods
              Reply
              1. C
                Chandra Shekhar A K
                Sep 24, 2015 at 8:35 pm
                The judges of the supreme court are possibly too old to decide what is patently right and what is wrong.
                Reply
                1. G
                  Guruji
                  Sep 25, 2015 at 1:39 pm
                  Another fine example is the case of then Britannia Chief Mr Pillai who died in jail due to need of urgent medical attention which was denied to him by this very Judiciary which being the 3rd pillar of Democracy seems to be unstable from influence of the rich,corrupt and politicians
                  Reply
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