Uphaar Tragedy: Sushil Ansal’s sentence of one year imprisonment reduced to the period undergone owing to the old age

Supreme Court: In the review petition seeking modification of sentence awarded to  Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, convicted in the Uphaar Tragedy, the Court refused to reduce the sentence of Gopal Ansal but reduced Sushil Ansal’s sentence of imprisonment to the period undergone owing to the old age and the fact that of the one year period imposed by the Delhi High Court, he has already undergone around nine months including remission. Both will, however, be paying the fine of Rs. 30 Crores each.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Kurian Joseph, JJ said that having regard to the fact that the High Court and this Court, in appeal, had limited the imprisonment to one year, the punishment which would serve deterrence and public purpose by both imprisonment and exemplary fine, would be an appropriate punishment in a case like this. They were of the opinion that imposition of expiatory fine in addition to incarceration would serve the penalogical purpose of deterrence having regard also to recidivism.

However, A.K. Goel, J on the other hand said that there is neither any illegality nor any impropriety warranting review of said order passed by this Court. He said that Order of the Court has to be seen as a whole and cannot be split into different sentences. The operative part of the order shows that the Court has tried to balance the interest of justice and while holding that sentence was required to be enhanced, it was added that in lieu of additional period of enhanced sentence, substantial amount of fine was required to be imposed and the fine was to be utilized for setting up of or upgrading the trauma centres of hospitals managed by the Government of Delhi.

On 13.06.1997, there was a fire in Uphaar Cinema, Delhi wherein 59 persons lost their life and about 100 persons were injured. On charge of criminal negligence, apart from others, Sushil Ansal the licencee for running the cinema and his brother Gopal Ansal who was in fact conducting the business of cinema, were convicted under Sections 304-A, 337, 338 read with Section 36, IPC. The Trial Court sentenced them to undergo imprisonment upto two years which was reduced by the High Court to one year. [Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy v. Sushil Ansal, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 108, decided on 09.02.2017]

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