The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Damages for Uphaar fire

New Delhi, April 24: Six years after the Uphaar fire tragedy, Delhi High Court today awarded a compensation of over Rs 17 crore to the families of the 59 victims and the injured.

The tragedy occurred on June 13, 1997 as a packed hall watched the Hindi blockbuster Border. While 57 people were killed that day, two succumbed to injuries later.

Justices S.K. Mahajan and Mukul Mudgal also ordered the owner of the theatre to pay Rs 2.5 crore for setting up a central accident trauma service in the city. The judges found that the owner had earned the amount as illegal profit through extra balcony seats from 1979 to 1996.

According to the verdict, relatives of the deceased who were above 20 years at that time will get Rs 18 lakh each, while relatives of those who were below 20 will get Rs 15 lakh. The 104 who were injured will get Rs 1 lakh each.

The court also gave the victims’ kin the liberty to claim a larger amount if they feel the compensation is less than what the deceased earned.

The court order came on a civil suit filed by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, which had claimed a compensation of Rs 122 crore for the incident.

“It is a landmark judgment,” said association secretary Neelam Krishnamoorty, who lost both her children in the fire, after the verdict. “However, no amount of compensation can repair the loss.”

The judges held the owner of the cinema, Ansal Properties and Clubotel Limited, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi police’s licensing authorities guilty of neglecting public safety standards.

As the theatre was the major beneficiary of the illegal constructions, the court said the owner would pay 55 per cent of the compensation amount and the civic and licensing authorities the rest.

If the owner fails to pay the amount within two months, it could be recovered by selling the hall, the bench said.

The Ansals reacted cautiously. “I have not yet read the judgment and only after going through it could make suggestions to my client whether to approach the Supreme Court,” R.S. Puri, who appeared for the theatre, said.

The court also said the high toll was because of the lack of trauma centres at the hospitals in the capital.

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