The Centre’s decision to withdraw its 2015 notification, by which licences to cinema halls were to be granted by deputy commissioners of the revenue department and not police, invited backlash from family members of victims of the Uphaar fire tragedy, who said it took them “back to the 1997 incident, in which we lost our dear ones”.
The Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, which was founded after the Uphaar fire tragedy on June 13, 1997, said, “It is disappointing that the Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor to withdraw the notification”.
Association chairperson Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost two of her children in the incident, said the Supreme Court’s 2011 directive to have a single-point nodal agency for licences was “with good intent and for the safety of our family members at public places”.
She said the single-point nodal agency’s suggestion was reiterated by the apex court in 2014, following which the L-G in January, 2015, had issued a notification that licences would be granted by the deputy commissioners on the recommendation of a nodal agency and not by the Delhi Police’s licencing department.
The notification was challenged in the High Court by the National Association of Motion Picture Exhibitors in October 2015. The Centre told a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao that it has sent a letter to the L-G, asking it to withdraw the 2015 notification.
The affidavit, filed through central government standing counsel Akshay Makhija, also stated that the Ministry’s decision was communicated by the L-G’s office to the Chief Secretary of Delhi on January 9, 2019, to take necessary action.
It further said the letter has been issued on the legal advice of two senior law officers of the government.
However, Naveen Sahni, who lost his daughter in the incident, questioned the law officers opinion and their wisdom on the issue over the Supreme Court.
“Have they gone deep into the Uphaar fire tragedy, which claimed 59 lives?” Sahni said, adding “This decision has taken us back to 1997”.
“It is very unfortunate that fire safety… is not important for either the lawmaker or the policy-maker,” Krishnamoorthy said.
Before the 2015 notification came into operation, all agencies, would give NOCs for the premises, which was forwarded to the licencing department of the Delhi Police.