NEW DELHI: For 18 long years, Neelam Krishnamurthy has been fighting to get justice for her two teenaged children who were killed in the 1997 Uphaar tragedy.
But, on Wednesday, all her hopes were shattered when the Supreme Court allowed the Ansal brothers — Sushil and Gopal — to walk free by paying Rs 60 crore fine for the death of 59 people.
The three-judge Bench of Justice A R Dave, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the Ansals to pay the total fine of `60 crore within three months and deposit it with the Delhi government, which in turn will spend the money on welfare schemes.
Awarding the jail term for a period already undergone by the industrialists, the Bench noted that Sushil Ansal has spent over five months in prison whereas Gopal has spent over four months in jail
An inconsolable Krishnamurthy, who led the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), said, “Rich people can get away by paying money but it is different for the ordinary citizens.”
Maintaining that nobody cared for the life of an ordinary citizen, Krishnamurthy said: “I am very much disappointed. 18 years ago, I had lost faith in God and 18 years on, I have lost faith in the judiciary. One thing which I have realised is that the court of law is not same for the rich and the poor. Rich people can get away by paying money but for ordinary citizens, judiciary is different.”
“The law of the land is different for people with money and for ordinary citizens. I spent 17 years with my daughter and 13 years with my son but I have spent 18 years trying to get justice which has been denied today (Wednesday). This will send a wrong message to the entire world. This judgment will be talked about in the world and I will ensure that,” Krishnamurthy said.
She said the tragedy, in which 59 lives were lost on June 13, 1997 during the screening of blockbuster film Border, was due to the “wilful negligence” of the theatre owners who risked the lives of the movie-goers for pecuniary gain.
“It was a murder by wilful negligence. It was like mass-murder. When one person is killed the offender is awarded life sentence or 10-14 years in jail, but here they are getting away by paying money. My children died because Ansals provided extra seats to make more money,” Krishnamurthy said.
Krishnamurthy said she would consult lawyers to decide the future course of action.
The fine of `60 crore will have to be given to the Delhi Government to be utilised for development purposes, including the building of a trauma centre.