SC upholds Ansal brothers' conviction, judges differ on sentence
Upholding the conviction of Ansal brothers -- Sushil and Gopal -- in the Uphaar fire tragedy case, the Supreme Court Wednesday referred to a three-judge bench the question of quantum of sentence to be imposed on them.
A bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra referred the matter of sentence to a three-judge bench as both of them differed on the question.
Justice Thakur, upholding the Delhi High Court verdict said that both brothers would undergo a sentence of one year each as awarded by the high court.
The trial court had awarded the Ansal brothers two years' imprisonment but it was reduced to one year by the high court in 2008.
Justice Misra, holding that the "no leniency can be shown", said Ansals should undergo the maximum sentence of two years as provided under Section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
"I am of the view that they deserve maximum punishment with substantial fine," she said, but substituted the second year sentence with a fine of Rs.100 crore divided equally between the two brothers.
The Uphaar Cinema owned by the Ansals saw death of 59 people due to asphyxiation after a fire broke out in the transformer room of the cinema emitting toxic gases. People could not escape as the exit door of the cinema hall were closed and there was only one exit door to get out. The court said that Ansals could not escape their responsibility of the fire tragedy.
Justice Misra said that the fine would be used to set up a Trauma Centre at Dwarka which does not have any government medical facility. The centre which would be the extension of Safdarjung Hospital will also have super speciality wing and a burns ward.
The court said that trauma centre at Dwarka would be set up by the Ansals on a five acre plot to be given by the Delhi government for the culpability of Delhi Electricity Board in the case.
Justice Misra said that Ansals will construct the trauma centre within two years of the release of land for it.
In case Ansals fail to pay the fine of Rs.100 crore, then their assets - Uphaar Cinema and other place around it - would be auctioned to realise the money to set up the trauma centre in Dwarka.
She also directed that, in view of his advanced age, Sushil Ansal's period of sentence will be one that he has already undergone.
Justice Thakur also dismissed all the four petitions filed by Ansal brothers and other staff members of Uphaar Cinema challenging the high court verdict and that of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy seeking the trail of Ansals under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC that would have attracted the longer punishment of 10 years upon conviction.
Justice Misra dismissed appeals by Ansal brothers and others of Uphaar Cinema, but allowed the appeal by the CBI and the Association of Victims of Uphar Tragedy.
Justice Thakur in his judgment said that after lapse of 16 years, to start the entire process would serve no purpose.
While the trial court had Nov 20, 2007 convicted Ansal brothers and others under Section 403 of IPC and awarded them two years sentence each, the high court by its Dec 19, 2008, verdict convicted them under 304A and reduced their sentence to one year each.
(Posted on 05-03-2014)