A famous saying is ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ and that is the true story of Neelam Krishnamoorthy shown in the Trial By Fire web series on Netflix. A proud Indian feels sad at the travesty of justice because 26 years have passed since the fire tragedy at Uphaar Cinema located in the Green Park area of Delhi where Neelam Krishnamurthy, the main character of this web series and who lost her son and daughter in this fire. Besides the fact that 100 people died, parents of the victim and relatives STILL fight for justice for more than two decades In India. This is because in our country the legal system ensures that justice is denied due to inexplicably long delays and what a mother does is shown on ‘Trial By Fire’ a film based on ‘Uphaar Cinema Fire Incident’. Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s life and story are explained in this article.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy: Everything To Know About Her Story Now On Netflix!
The ‘Trial By Fire’ web series is based on a true story:
The story is of Neelam Krishnamoorthy and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy who lost their children’s lives in the Uphaar cinema accident.
When women face a major accident in life, they almost lose their courage to face the challenges of life. It is not easy to fight a long legal battle to get justice, especially after losing a loved one. But Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who has been fighting relentlessly for the last 26 years in the hope of getting justice, spoke about her struggle and helped share her story on the ‘Trial By Fire’ Netflix web series.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy has been fighting for 26 years:
Neelam’s 17-year-old daughter Unnati and 13-year-old son Ujjwal were among those who died in the Uphaar cinema fire. Had both his children been alive today, their ages would have been 39 and 35 respectively.
It was a matter of 26 years ago on February 13, 1997 when Neelam Krishnamoorthy was happily preparing her daughter to go to college. Neelam’s daughter Unnati had many dreams in her eyes. That day, 17-year-old Unnati and her 13-year-old son did what children usually do. Sports and Fun. Then the film ‘Border’ was newly released and Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s children were very excited to watch this film. Neelam booked tickets for the kids at the Kids Uphaar cinema for the sake of their happiness. Little did she know that she would never see the children alive again because Uphaar cinema had caught fire.
The Uphaar cinema accident was brutal:
The Uphaar cinema accident is counted among the worst accidents in the country. On this day, a transformer caught fire during the show of the film Border, due to which poisonous carbon monoxide gas spread throughout the theater and 59 people lost their lives. Neelam Krishnamoorthy ‘s children had gone to the cinema laughing and playing, but their dead bodies came back.
The Uphaar cinema accident took away the lives of her two teenage children, Unnati and Ujjwal, in the same accident. These children, who were the future of the country, became victims of untimely death due to the carelessness of the people. Remembering that day, Neelam Krishnamoorthy still regrets that her babies died due to asphyxiation.
Timeline of the Uphaar Cinema case:
June 13, 1997 – 59 people died in a fire at Uphaar Cinema during the screening of the film Border.
July 22, 1997 – Police arrested Uphaar cinema owner Sushil Ansal and his son Pranav Ansal from Mumbai.
July 24, 1997 – The investigation of the case was handed over from the Delhi Police to the CBI.
November 15, 1997 – CBI filed a charge sheet in the court against 16 people including Sushil Ansal, Gopal Ansal.
March 10, 1999 – The trial of the case started in the sessions court.
February 27, 2001 – The court framed charges against all the accused for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, negligence and other cases.
24 April 2003 – The High Court issued an order to give compensation of Rs 18 crore to the families of the victims.
November 20, 2007 – The court convicted 12 accused including Sushil and Gopal Ansal. All were sentenced to two years imprisonment.
March 5, 2014 – The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the Ansal brothers.
The Uphaar cinema accident shows India’s lack of safety:
The faulty system of our poor country was finally challenged by Neelam Krishnamoorthy!
Neelam Krishnamoorthy said on the reasons for the death of people in this accident, ‘No victim was burnt to death in this accident. All the people died due to suffocation. When this accident happened, the film continued to run, neither the people watching the film were informed nor the emergency lights were arranged nor the doors were opened.
During the investigation of the incident, it was found that there were no adequate security arrangements in the cinema hall.
After losing her children in this case, she raised her voice for beefing up the security system in cinema halls. Neelam says, ‘The court had said regarding this matter that instead of different departments, there should be a single nodal agency. Earlier there was a provision to give separate NOCs for MCD, DFS, NCT. These guidelines were issued in the year 2011, which were notified by the Governor in 2015. But this did not change much of the situation.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy says, ‘The notification has come, but theaters are challenging it. Many theaters want to stick to the old system of DCP licensing. I am challenging it in the High Court because this system is flawed and because of this so many lives have been lost.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s fight barely helped with emergency exits:
Continued efforts to improve conditions by Neelam Krishnamoorthy helped with information related to security.
This was because after the Uphaar cinema incident, during the screening of the film in theaters, the viewers were being told how to get out of the cinema hall and where the exits are. Neelam says, ‘For this people had told me that this change came because of your struggle but now it has been closed again.
Neelam further added, “Most complexes have 3-4 cinema halls and have only one way to enter and exit. In case of any kind of emergency or fire, everyone tries to run out of the same ladder. It was our effort that this incident should not happen to anyone else after us, but there has not been much change in the ground situation and as the situation is, an accident like Uphaar can happen again anytime. Neelam highlighted the issue of security measures being taken in large buildings including theaters. She found how the rules of fire safety were being violated in big buildings, due to which the concerned agencies were activated.
She helped create a group for family victims at court:
Neelam did not know anyone among those who lost their lives in the Uphaar accident, but she took initiative and tried to contact all the families of the victims. Neelam says, ‘We were able to contact 7-8 victim families and we formed our association.’
Speaking of her courtroom injustice, she said: “I had absolutely no idea that when I went to the court, I would have to face such situations. The owner of a big company with a long army of lawyers, money and power to influence was to stand against him. I received threats many times inside the courtroom itself. The President of the Court’s Bar Association, accompanied by 30 lawyers, was threatening me not to come to the courtroom, but after losing our children, we were not afraid of anything. We stood firm and rallied the victims against the accused. It was the first time in the world that the victims came together like a family and fought unitedly against the culprits for 26 years”.
One victim of this fire, KRS Rahi’s pain is still there, in fact, his 22-year-old son Sudeep Rahi had gone to celebrate his birthday on 13th June. During this, he went to the cinema with friends, but he never came back again. The day his son had his birthday, he left the world on the same day. Rahi’s eyes become moist saying that we do not understand whether to celebrate our son’s birthday or death anniversary on 13th June.
The strength of this association would help as Indian corruption hit its peak with Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s fight in court for 309.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s fight has been tainted with corruption:
Neelam Krishnamoorthy and her husband fought a long legal battle to get the culprits of the Uphaar cinema accident punished, but Neelam Krishnamoorthy was disappointed when the culprits were not punished despite being proved guilty.
During the case, several attempts were made to pressure Neelam Krishnamurthy. She says, ‘I was intimidated many times, I was also lured with money. Various tactics were used to stop us from coming to the court. Most of the people who were fighting the cases with us in the court gave up because we kept getting dates again and again. 309 is a serious section of CrPC but in spite of this, the case was repeatedly delayed in favor of the accused. This only benefited the accused. The families of the victims did not understand what was happening next in the case, but they had faith in us. We used to hold meetings with all the family members and tell them what happened in court.
Despite being convicted, the Ansals were not punished:
“My children were sitting on the right side of the cinema hall. When the fire broke out in the cinema hall, its corridors and gangways were blocked because the Ansal brothers had blocked these passages and installed extra seats there, and there was a 14-seat box for the Ansal family. This thing is definitely in the documents. The Ansal family itself had requested for more seats as their family has increased. It is a tragedy that they killed our children for their selfishness and comfort”, said the poor mother.
In this case, the Supreme Court had sentenced Gopal Ansal to 1 year imprisonment, while Sushil Ansal was given relief on the basis of old age (77 years), which made Neelam quite disappointed. Neelam says, ‘The court held Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty under 304 A, but also said that they have no criminal record and are senior citizens. He was not a senior citizen when this incident happened. According to this logic, my children have committed a crime by taking the gift. After all, what was the fault of my children, that they had to lose their lives in their teenage years. I was able to spend 17 years with my daughter and 13 years with my son and after they left, 26 years were spent fighting this case. I spent more time fighting his case than I spent living with him, but I did not get justice.
The Supreme Court rejected Neelam, and injustice for her children’s death continues:
The court made both the Ansal brothers deposit Rs 30 crore each for setting up a trauma center in Delhi and apart from this they were not punished. Such punishment happened for the first time in our country, while there is no such provision in criminal cases that money should be given in lieu of punishment. After the Supreme Court’s judgment came, we filed a review petition, but the Supreme Court dismissed it without hearing it. The sad thing is that the Supreme Court convicted him, held him responsible for many things, but still did not send him to jail.
For Neelam Krishnamoorthy, it was not a fight for money, but a fight for justice. She says, ‘Parents think about their future only after seeing their children. When parents die, a person recovers from it in a few days because he needs to pay attention to his children. But when you have to shoulder the burden of your children, there is no greater sorrow for the parents than that.
Where is Neelam Krishnamoorthy now?
26 years have passed since this accident and not a single day has gone by when we have not felt sad. We have fought this case very strongly and the only reason for that has been that we wanted to get justice for our children but I am very sad that I lost. There is no happiness left in my life now. We think every day that today is our last day. I had a lot of faith in the judicial system of the country, but it pains me to say that only rich people are getting justice. There is no justice for the poor.’ For Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the loss of children was the biggest punishment of her life.
Netflix web series after her book:
“My husband Shekhar and I thought that a book should be written on what happened to us. In the year 2016, our book Trial by Fire in English and its Hindi translation Agni Pariksha was released. After this Siddharth Jain contacted us and offered to make a movie. The decision to agree to the film was not that easy as I have lost both my children in this accident. My husband convinced me as we had only one condition from Siddharth that this is a very emotional and serious issue, so we do not want any kind of melodrama in the movie. This movie should be released without drama which we colloquially term as masala or chili spice. Thus, he has prepared this web series with great vigor, ” said Neelam.
We have now come to the year 2023. I wrote my book in 2016. At that time a review petition was also pending in the Supreme Court. Even during that time, there was no ban on the book. But in different cases, I had to face the court’s manipulations. In that case, too, the Delhi High Court had cleared the book, rejecting Sushil Ansals petition. Today the web series has also been released.
Her thoughts on Netflix’s web series:
This web series has been prepared without any melodrama and without any added “masala”.
The actors have played their characters very well. Although none of the actors could meet me and my family due to Covid-19, yet they have performed well according to their abilities. The web series will introduce the new generation to the fire tragedy that happened two decades ago. Along with this, the audience will also present the judicial system of the country and its tactics in front of the people.
Speaking of actors, they cried as they meet Neelam:
Abhay Deol and Rajshree Deshpande, who play Shekhar Krishnamoorthy and Neelam Krishnamoorthy in Trial By Fire met the real mother and father and teared up.
Rajshree Deshpande, who is playing the role of Neelam Krishnamoorthy shared that it was great pride for me to meet her and play her character on screen. During the meeting, Neelam Krishnamoorthy hugged me tightly and said that now you are Neelam and it does not suit you to cry.
Final message for victims:
She believes that her life is worse than death. Neelam Krishnamoorthy’s fight was to get justice for her children. After the departure of her children, she wanted to fulfill her last duty for them, but this fight of the mother remained incomplete. Her eyes are still moist and yearn for her children. But despite this sadness, Neelam inspires women to fight against injustice, saying:
‘Getting justice is a big thing in the way our country’s judicial process is, but continue your struggle, because tolerating injustice is also like promoting injustice.’