Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daily News: SC disappoints us, say families of Uphaar victims

Disappointing the families who lost their loved ones in the 1997 Uphaar Cinema fire incident, the Supreme Court on Thursday slashed the compensation awarded to the victims of the tragedy. Compensation to the families of deceased older than 20 years has been cut from Rs 18 lakh to Rs 10 lakh each, while for those below 20 years of age, compensation has been reduced from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh.

The apex court said that that the responsibility lies with the Ansals and the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB). The Ansals have been told to pay 85 per cent of the compensation, while the DVB will have to pay 15 per cent of the compensation.

The punitive damages imposed by the Delhi High Court on Ansals has also been reduced from Rs 2.5 crore to Rs 25 lakh.

"They have reduced punitive damages from 2.5 crores to 25 lakhs. 25 lakh is nothing for corporates. I fail to understand how this puny amount will will discourage corporates in the future," said Navin Sahni, family member of a victim.

The apex court also ruled that the MCD and Delhi Police, the licencing authority, cannot be held responsible for the tragedy.

"We have already lost everything. We have nothing else to lose. The MCD should have been made liable. People will continue to die in such tragedies and passing the buck will go on," said Neelam Krishnamurthy, family member of another victim.

However, MCD lawyer Sanjeev Sen said, "Total quantum of compensation awarded by the HC to the victims has been maintained. But the liability of MCD in this whole episode has been set aside and so has of the Delhi Police, which is the licensing authority."

"The stand of the MCD was always that we were not liable, we complied with all the statutory obligations. We had made timely reports, pointed out illegal constructions," said Sen.

With the Supreme Court order, it appears that the civil litigation is over in the case. Now the petitioners will push for criminal proceedings, asking for a higher quantum of punishment, fine and compensation.