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Uphaar case: Gopal Ansal gets jail, brother spared

  • The SC on Thursday ordered real estate tycoon Gopal Ansal to serve seven more months in prison for the Uphaar fire tragedy. This comes over a year after it had let him off along with his brother, Sushil Ansal, once they served a few months in prison.

    In its earlier order, the apex court had termed the few months the Ansals were in jail as adequate punishment for the negligence that turned Delhi's Uphaar movie hall into a blazing fire that left 59 persons dead in 1997.

    The trial court had convicted Sushil and Gopal for negligence leading to the tragedy and asked them to serve two years in jail each. The Delhi HC then reduced this to one-year imprisonment.

    On March 5, 2014, an SC bench of Justices T S Thakur and G S Mishra upheld their conviction. Justice Thakur agreed with the HC decision to reduce the imprisonment to one year. Justice Mishra said two-year prison term was justified. However, she said the jail term could be reduced to one year if the Ansals paid Rs 50 crore each for construction of a Rs 100 crore trauma centre in Dwarka.

    The bench let off the Ansal brothers with the period of imprisonment already undergone as just punishment provided they paid Rs 30 crore each to Delhi government to set up a Rs 60 crore trauma centre.

    An impassioned plea by Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy led by Neelam Krishnamoorthy for review of the sentence persuaded the court to hear arguments afresh. On Thursday, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Goel partially reviewed the August 19, 2015 judgment by a 2-1 verdict.
      
    The court by majority verdict said Sushil Ansal was shown leniency because of his old age and ailments, which was not the case with Gopal. While Sushil had undergone five months and 20 days' imprisonment, his brother had served a jail term of four months and 20 days. The court asked Gopal to surrender to authorities within four weeks to undergo the remaining part of his sentence.
     

    OUR TAKE

    The SC should without any delay wrap up the matter for it has been in and out of court since 1997. The victims of the unfortunate event have long since moved on with their lives and mourned their dead family members. It is about time the court comes to a conclusive decision and end the dispute once and for all.


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