Fire, suffocation and 59 deaths… Full story of Uphaar cinema fire tragedy on which Netflix brought webseries?
Trial By Fire: Netflix’s webseries ‘Trial by Fire’ was released on January 13 on the Uphaar fire incident. Sushil Ansal had filed a petition in Koi to ban this webseries, which was rejected by the Delhi High Court. Know the full story of this fire incident.
June 13, 1997. It was a summer day. The film Border was screened at Uphaar Cinema in Delhi. It was the first day of the film’s release. Since the film was related to patriotism, there was also a crowd. The audience turns towards the cinema by taking tickets. The day turned out to be a painful experience of a lifetime for the viewers who watched the afternoon show. A fire broke out in the parking lot of the cinema hall at 4.55 pm. Smoke started spreading. Slowly it reached the cinema hall.
Things started getting worse. People started running. Some quickly started coming out of the ground floor. Some were so scared that they started jumping from the windows of the upper floors. Many got trapped inside. Gradually the scope of the fire started increasing and people started coming in its grip.
There were 59 deaths, 23 were children.
59 people died in the accident. There were 23 children in it. More than 100 children were injured. When Neelam, who lost her son in a fire, learns that the children’s deaths were avoidable, it leads her to a long and exhausting battle against influential property developers and lethargic courts. Neelam Krishnamurthy lost both her children, 17-year-old Unnati and 13-year-old Ujjwal, in the accident.
Court battle started on this matter
Neelam says in a BBC report, slowly I started to understand what happened that day, why only the people sitting in the balcony died. My son-daughter and all the victims were sitting in the balcony itself. From the information received from the newspapers, it came to know that the fire had started long ago, but the film continued to run. People were not even informed about this. The doors were closed. The watchman had run away. It is clear from this that the death could have been avoided. Many similar things came to the fore in the investigation as well.
how things got worse
A few years before the incident, more seats were increased in Uphaar Cinema than required. The cinema owners had kept an additional 52 seats in the hall. Because of this, the path towards the exit gate had become very narrow. Usually there is a light on the floor in the cinema hall so that the way can be seen. But there was neither emergency light nor floor light in Uphaar cinema. After the incident, the people sitting in the balcony who survived, shared their tragedy.
He told in the court how stumbling in the dark, he was going towards the exit somehow. Somehow some people managed to open the door and came out. There was smoke everywhere in the lobby. Many people started fainting as soon as they came in the lap of smoke. Those who were left in the balcony suffocated due to carbon-monoxide.
It was revealed in the investigation that the root of this fire was the transformer installed in the basement. Due to not being installed properly, the risk of fire increased. On the same day, there was another fire, which was controlled, but due to lack of repair, fire broke out again and it turned into a gift of death for the people.
Neelam says, I told husband Shekhar Krishnamurthy about these negligence and said that I want to send those responsible for this to jail. Both decided to fight the court battle. Neelam said, when the children are alive, parents do so much for them, but why should they step back when they are gone.
16 people were made accused
The matter reached the court. 16 people, including the staff working in the hall, the safety inspector and the owner Ansal Brothers, were made accused. The most high profile names in this were cinema owners Sushil and Gopal Ansal.
The court found all the accused guilty in 2007. By then 4 of them had died. Some of them were sentenced from 7 months to 7 years. Ansal Brothers were imprisoned for only two years. Neelam said, it was shocking that the Ansal brothers, who were responsible for the murder of 59 people, were sentenced to only two years. But when the sentence was challenged in the Delhi High Court, instead of increasing the sentence, it was halved.
The matter reached the Supreme Court and its decision came in 2015. The decision here was even more shocking. The court completely waived the jail sentence of Ansal Brothers and imposed a fine of 30-30 crores on them.
Remembering that day, Neelam said, as soon as I heard the verdict, I threw all the documents there. Came out of the court. Started crying bitterly. That order had shaken his faith in the judiciary.
Neelam again went to the Supreme Court. This time the court sentenced Gopal Ansal to one year. Sushil Ansal was 77 years old. Seeing his age, he was released.
Netflix’s webseries ‘Trial by Fire’ was released on January 13 on the Uphaar fire incident. Sushil Ansal had filed a petition in Koi to ban this webseries, which was rejected by the Delhi High Court.