Hope you are having a good day. It wasn’t, however, a good day for the families that lost their loved ones in the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy. The case, unlike many other such tragedies, hasn’t been forgotten by many in the country mainly because the victims' association has worked hard at keeping the issue alive.
As many as 59 people died when a fire started during the screening of Hindi movie Border on June 13, 1997. Investigations soon revealed that Gopal and Sunil Ansal, who came to be infamously known as the Ansal brothers, and who together owned the property, had not followed the basic safety rules.
The case dragged on, like all cases drag on, in India. Finally in 2015, the Supreme Court allowed the duo to walk free. By free we mean as free men. Not free of cost. They had to pay a fine of Rs 60 crore.
Some say this is as good as free of cost because Ansal brothers have a lot of money. And most people, who can pay, won’t mind paying to escape the long hands of law. At that time, Gopal and Sunil had individually undergone only five-six months of imprisonment. Quite obviously, people were angry. So two years later, the Supreme Court sent Gopal to a year in jail. Even then, the SC said Sunil won’t undergo any further imprisonment because he was too old.
In 2015, when the verdict arrived, Sunil was 75 and Gopal 67 years old. A little back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests in 1997, Sunil was 57 and Gopal 49. Okay, we didn’t do it on the back of any envelope, but on our computer. Where we calculated isn’t even important.
Oh, as went into the past, we forgot to tell you what exactly happened today in court. Today, the SC dismissed a curative plea filed by the victims' association in connection with the case. The petition demanded longer sentences for the Ansal brothers. Read more about what the court said here.
And this is the final judgment in the case. There is no room left for any further appeal. Maybe demands can demand more compensation but the issue related to Ansal brothers going to jail is settled.
Wondering why? That's because there is nothing beyond a curative petition that you and we can use. Curative petition is the absolute last resort for a petitioner. Before that is the review petition. Curative petitions come after review petitions. So if you have a problem with an SC verdict, you file a review petition. If you have a problem with review petition, file a curative petition. Once the court delivers a verdict on the curative petition, go home.
In 1997, when Uphaar cinema went up in flames claiming 59 lives, the concept of curative petition didn’t even exist. It was introduced in 2002.
The SC introduced it in the matter of Rupa Ashok Hurra versus Ashok Hurra. The question before the court was whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final order of the Supreme Court, after dismissal of a review petition. The court used the Latin expression “actus curiae neminem gravabit”, which means that an act of the court shall prejudice no one, and brought in curative petitions. So, whether or not one is satisfied with the judgment, one can’t appeal against it.
You know the court has to put a full stop somewhere. Else people would keep appealing and reappealing.
In cases where a death sentence has been awarded, of course, you know the drill is different. There convicts also have the option of a mercy petition and then the option to challenge the grounds on which a mercy petition has been rejected (if it is).
Talking of death sentences, did you hear of what Vinay Sharma did? Who Vinay Sharma? One of the four men convicted in the Delhi gang rape and murder case. The man hit his head against the wall in his jail cell.
A jail official reportedly managed to stop him, but Sharma was injured. Jail conditions are tough. Many people tend to harm themselves when they are unable to deal with them.
You know in India, a lot many people on death row have been waiting to get executed. Now, we all know we will die one day but when you know you are going to be hanged and then, within the four walls of the jail, you have to keep waiting to be hanged, it can be difficult to deal with.
No, we are not trying to create a sympathy wave for such people. We aren’t even getting into any debate over whether death sentence is right or wrong. But the Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence in many cases, because even after they were given death penalty despite years passing by, they kept waiting in jail. The court called it a violation of human rights.
Have you heard of Anthony Charles Graves? He was the 138th death row inmate in the US who was set free after being found innocent. He was convicted for the murders of six people, including a grandmother, a teenage girl and four children, who were not even 10 years of age.
But not before he spent 18.5 years in prison — 16 of which were spent in solitary confinement and 12 of which were on death row. Graves came out of jail in 2010. He then penned a book, Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul. We wouldn’t say it’s a must read, but it is moving for sure.
Murder and rape are heinous crimes. Many countries consider death sentence would act as an effective way to stop others from committing such crimes. But 13 countries in the world can execute people, legally, for not believing in God. Now, you may say belief is a personal matter, but what one says is of no value when these 13 countries find someone to be an atheist and decide to extract life out of the person.
Here are countries where atheism is punishable with death:
9) Saudi Arabia
12) United Arab Emirates
And this list doesn’t include countries where atheists are killed by religious extremists. Do you know which country has the maximum number of positive atheists? We can’t tell you the answer before telling you what is positive atheism and what is negative atheism.
Positive atheism is the form of atheism that additionally asserts that no deities exist. It is also called strong atheism and hard atheism. Negative atheism, on the contrary, is a type of atheism where a person does not believe in the existence of any deities but does assert that there are none. This is also called weak atheism and soft atheism.
Now, that we talking in detail about atheism and atheists, let’s also tell you where the word comes from because atheism is our Word Of The Day.
The word ‘atheism’ finds its roots in the Greek language. It can be divided into a (ἄ), a Greek prefix meaning "without", and theos (θεός), meaning ‘God’. Put together, it means “without gods” or “godless”. In ancient Greece, it also meant impious, showing a lack of respect for God or religion.
Now, to the question we put ahead of you about which country has the highest prevalence of atheists. Yes, China it is. China has about 49 per cent positive atheists. China has a population of 138.64 crore, which means it has 1,38,00,00,000 crore people. As many as 67,93,36,000 of these are convinced there is no God.
Communism, the ideology under which the ruling party of China has governed since 1949, regards religion as a means of oppressing people. Under Mao Zedong, the founding father of People's Republic of China, many religious movements were suppressed throughout his 27 year reign.
Now we can't really talk about China these days and not talk about coronavirus. The bad news is that another Indian onboard the cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese coast, Diamond Princess, has tested positive for the deadly virus.
A total of 132 crew members and six passengers of Indian origin are on the ship. Now, eight of these 138 people are infected with the virus. Three people were detected with the virus in India. All three in Kerala. The good news is that all three have recovered now.
Did you know that there are several kinds of coronaviruses? Some can even cause cold. Some actually are innocuous, which means they cause no harm at all.
The current strain of coronavirus is called the ‘novel’ coronavirus because it has previously not been identified in humans. This one is deadly. Not that everyone infected with it dies, but it can lead to death.
Talking of death, though we hate to do it, let’s talk about three deaths in Tamil Nadu that happened last night. The tragedy struck a Tamil film. Three people died on the sets of Kamal Haasan-starrer Indian 2 after a crane fell on them at the EVP Studios. All three were technicians. Another 10 were injured in the accident.
The accident was eerie because 10 such deaths have taken place in the past 10 years in EVP Studios. It all started with the amusement park that existed where EVP Studios now stands.
Back then Afia Magh, a flight attendant, was thrown out of an 'Octopus ride' at the amusement park. She fell out of her car, crashed 10 ft under, with another car hitting her head. Magh died on her way to the hospital. During the shooting of Rajinikanth's Kaala (2018), a technician died on the sets after stepping over a live wire. If you want to know more about the tragedies that the site has witnessed, read this.
No, we don’t mean to spook you. We are not suggesting any ghost stories here. Just pointing out the strangeness of it all.
But if we spooked you, we will try and distract you. Watch the trailer of Indian 2.
Kamal Haasan is unrecognisable in this avatar. He's playing a nonagerian in the film, by the way.
It’s time, however, to leave you with the trailer or whatever else you are planning to do next.
We will, of course, be back tomorrow.