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15 years on, Uphaar owner feels sorry

15 years on, Uphaar owner feels sorry
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More than 15 years after the Uphaar tragedy took place, Sushil Ansal, an owner of the Uphaar cinema hall, apologised to the families of its victims on Thursday. The fire in the cinema hall had claimed 59 persons on 13 June 1997 during the screening of the Hindi film Border.

Ansal apologised to Neelam Krishnamurthy, a mother of two, who were killed on the unfortunate day, during the hearing of a criminal appeal before the Supreme Court. While the arguments were going on in the court, Ansal stood up with folded hands and said to Krishnamurthy in Hindi, 'Mujhe maaf kar dijiye [“Forgive me”].' Krishnamurthy has waged a long battle through her organisation Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy [AVUT].

The apology came when Ansal's lawyer Ram Jethmalani was saying before the two-judge bench of Justice Gyansudha Mishra and Justice T S Thakur that his client was willing to construct a trauma centre and was ready to give compensation, to which Krishnamurthy objected, saying that it was not about money but about losing near and dear ones. While she was mentioning a long list of threats and humiliation she allegedly received from the Ansals in all these years, Sushil Ansal stood up and apologised.

After Ansal apologised, the court asked Krishnamurthy if the apology was enough. She answered in the negative, saying that she had lost her children in the fire tragedy and now there was no point in accepting the apology after 15 years. While tears started rolling down her cheeks, she continued arguing her case.

She said that the theatre owner had not apologised in all these 15 years even once and now they were apologising because of the fact that the case was in the highest court of appeal. She also said that there was no point in apologising now when they had been threatening her all these years.

Krishnamurthy approached the apex court for the enhancement of punishment to Ansals. The trial court hearing the criminal case had awarded Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal two years in imprisonment. The Delhi high court, however, had reduced it to one year. Not satisfied with it, AVUT had appealed in the Supreme Court for stricter punishment for cinema hall owners.
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