9 people had died of asphyxia when a fire broke out during the screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’ in Uphaar theatre in Green Park area of South Delhi on June 13, 1997. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
Ansal brothers, the prime accused in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case, won’t go to jail as the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the curative petitions filed by the families of the victims. The curative petition was filed by the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) pleading for enhancing Ansal brothers' punishment. However, Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde-headed Bench rejected the curative petition during a hearing on Thursday. The February 20 order means that the 2015 top court verdict stays. Five years ago, the apex court had given the judgment that has said that the steep fine of Rs 60 crore was enough punishment for the Ansal brothers. They were the owners of the film theatre in which 59 people were killed in a blaze in in June 1997.
"We have gone through the curative petitions and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out within the parameters indicated in the decision of this Court in Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra & Another, reported in 2002 (4) SCC 388. Hence, the Curative Petitions are dismissed," the court order read.
The Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) had sought review of the apex court verdict, delivered on August 19, 2015, sending Ansal brothers to two years rigorous jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each within three months. The convicts have already paid the fine.59 people had died of asphyxia when a fire broke out during the screening of Bollywood movie ‘Border’ in Uphaar theatre in Green Park area of South Delhi on June 13, 1997. Over 100 were also injured in the subsequent stampede.
Here is a timeline of important events related to the two-decade-old incident
July 22, 1997: Theatre owner Sushil Ansal and his son Pranav were arrested in Mumbai by the crime branch of Delhi police.
July 24, 1997: The probe was transferred from Delhi police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
November 15, 1997: CBI files chargesheet against 16 accused including theatre owners 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, including sections 304 (culpable homicide), 304 A (causing death by negligent act) and 337 (hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
May 23, 2001: Recording of prosecution witnesses’ testimony begins.
13 October 2011: The Supreme Court on 13 October 2011, nearly halved the sum of compensation awarded to them by the Delhi high court and slashed punitive damages to be paid by cinema owners Ansal brothers from â‚¹2.5 crore (equivalent to â‚¹3.6 crore or US$540,000 in 2016) to â‚¹25 lakh (equivalent to â‚¹36 lakh or US$54,000 in 2016).
25 August 2015: In its final order, Supreme Court on 25 August 2015 modified its earlier order and ordered real estate barons Ansal brothers will undergo a two-year rigorous jail term in the Uphaar fire case if they fail to pay Rs.30 crore each within three months.
April 4, 2002: Delhi High Court asks trial court to try 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 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 benchAugust 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 agency inputs)