Prayagraj/New Delhi, October 16
The Allahabad High Court on Monday acquitted domestic help Surendra Koli and his employer Moninder Singh Pandher in the 2006 Nithari serial killings for lack of evidence, recalling for many the chilling crime targeting young girls that came to light with skeletal remains being found behind a Noida bungalow.
A two-judge bench of Justices Ashwani Kumar Mishra and SHA Rizvi allowed the appeals filed by Koli and Pandher, who were challenging the death sentence given by a CBI court in Ghaziabad. The high court said the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“The Allahabad High Court order may pave the way for Pandher to walk out of jail,” the businessman’s lawyer Manisha Bhandari told PTI over the phone. However, Koli is likely to remain behind bars. He still faces life imprisonment in one case.
A CBI official in New Delhi said the team was waiting for the judgment copy and would take a call on next steps after studying it.
Koli, who is in a Ghaziabad prison, was sentenced to death in 12 cases being heard by the Allahabad High Court. His former employer Pandher, lodged in a Noida jail, faced death sentence in two cases.
Both were charged with rape and murder and sentenced to death in the killings that horrified the nation with the details on sexual assault, brutal murder and hints of possible cannibalism.
In all, 19 cases had been lodged against Pandher and Koli in 2007. The CBI had filed closure reports in three of the 19 cases due to lack of evidence. In the remaining 16 cases, Koli was earlier acquitted in three cases and his death sentence in one case was commuted to life.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s plea challenging the high court earlier commuting Koli’s death sentence to life imprisonment before the Supreme Court is still pending.
He was acquitted in the remaining 12 cases today.
Pandher, his lawyer said, was initially charged in six cases—one by the CBI and was summoned by families of the victims in five cases.
He was acquitted in three cases by the sessions court earlier. He has been acquitted by the Allahabad High Court In the remaining three—one in 2009 and in two on Monday, his lawyer Bhandari said.
The sensational killings came to light with the discovery of the skeletal remains of eight children from the drain behind Pandher’s house in Nithari in Noida bordering the national capital on December 29, 2006.
Further digging and searches of drains in the area around Pandher’s house led to more skeletal remains being found. Most of these remains were that of poor children and young women who had gone missing from the area.
Within 10 days, the CBI took over case and its search resulted in the recovery of more bones.
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