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Scrutiny
 
LEGAL VERDICT: UPHAAR TRAGEDY
Judgment given, justice denied
The court has missed a valuable opportunity to send a stern message
Issue Date - 10/11/2011
 
A person dies once. His kith and kin die several times over (especially when it is an untimely & unexpected death). Imagine how painful it can be to run after the authorities for ‘financial compensation’ for your loved one’s death. Nothing can fill the emotional void; this painful exercise is often endured so that life can move on. And when the government and/or the law of the land go back on their promises on compensation, the pain and suffering is truly unimaginable.

The compensation amount, which was to be paid to the victims of the Uphaar Theatre Fire Tragedy, 1997 (59 in all), has been nearly halved by the Supreme Court recently. It has been drastically reduced from Rs.1.8 million to Rs.1 million for those who were over 20 years old and from Rs.1.5 million to Rs.0.7 million for those under 20. Even though the court has laid down some guidelines, which are to be necessarily followed by theatres to avoid such incidents in future, it has drastically reduced the total compensation amount, which was to be paid by the defendant company Ansal Group from Rs.250 million to Rs.2.5 million. Also, 85% of the compensation is to be paid by the Ansal Group and the rest would be paid by DVB (Delhi Vidyut Board).

Rather than increasing the amount of compensation (and adding interest for the time delayed) the SC has reduced the penalties imposed on the Ansal group. This would not only motivate corporates to further dodge security-related parameters at their service facilities but would also send negative vibes across India Inc. and India on the street. This is an eventual situation when you consider how private companies are often blindly driven by profit motives and this was an opportunity to send a message in the strongest of terms. The reduced compensation is the result of a ‘logical’ formula. But does the law of the land always have to be so coldly logical?

 

Manish Bhati           

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