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Nithari case: SC stays Koli’s death sentence
Published on 7 Jan. 2010 10:28 PM IST
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The Supreme Court Thursday stayed the death sentence of Surinder Koli, convicted in February last year of raping and killing 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar in Nithari village in Noida near the national capital. Haldar was one of the 19 young women and children from Nithari whose body parts were found in a drain behind the bungalow of Koli’s employer Moninder Singh Pandher in December 2006. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.S Chauhan also issued notices to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Uttar Pradesh government seeking their stand on the lawsuit challenging Kohli’s conviction. Millions across the country and abroad were horrified when Noida police on Dec 29, 2006, began uncovering the remains of children and young women from a drain next to Pandher’s (D-5) bungalow in Noida’s Sector 31. Koli and Pandher were arrested thereafter. In February 2009, a special CBI court sentenced Pandher and Koli to death for raping and killing Rimpa Haldar. But, much to the shock of the victims’ families, Pandher was acquitted by the Allahabad High court in September 2009. Of the 19 cases of abduction, rape and murder of four women and 15 children, mostly girls, the CBI has filed chargesheets in 16 cases. All the cases are being heard separately. While Koli has been charged with rape, abduction and murder in all the cases, Pandher is co-accused in only six cases. Court’s relook raises hope: victims’ families The parents of the Nithari victims Thursday hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to stay convict Surender Koli’s death sentence, saying they hoped that not only Koli but his employer Moninder Singh Pandher are hanged for the horrific rape-murders of at least 19 children and women. It has been a painful three years of strife for the parents of 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar, one of the 19 victims whose body parts were found in a drain behind the bungalow of Pandher’s house in Noida, near Nithari village, in December 2006. “I will be happy only when the two responsible (for the crime) are hanged. I have full faith in the Supreme Court, even though Pandher was acquitted by the Allahabad (high) court (in one case). This time I hope Pandher too will be given the same sentence,” Rimpa’s father Anil Haldar told IANS. Though both Pandher and Koli were sentenced to death by the trial court, the Allahabad High Court in September 2009 acquitted businessman Pandher of the crime, but confirmed Koli’s death sentence. Haldar expressed his anguish at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s handling of the case and the probe agency giving a clean chit to Pandher. “How could a servant have killed all those people inside the house and the master not know? He had to be an accomplice and must be punished with equal severity. The CBI has no idea of the pain I have suffered! I am upset with how the case had turned out earlier,” Haldar added. Sunita Devi, mother of Jyoti, a 10-year-old victim, said she too wanted the two men punished with death. “We are happy with the apex court’s order as it will bring focus on Pandher, who was acquitted by the high court. He is the main culprit and should be punished. My daughter’s soul will rest in peace only after Koli and Pandher are hanged,” she said. Khalid Khan, a lawyer representing the victims, said the Supreme Court’s decision to stay Koli’s death sentence indicated that the evidence in the case would be re-evaluated. “This is a very good decision... This is actually an advantage for us because the court will re-evaluate the evidence submitted before the high court and lower courts,” Khalid Khan, a lawyer representing the Nithari victims, told IANS. Khan said the Supreme Court could revaluate “common evidence” against Pandher again. “The Supreme Court’s decision will be conclusive and we are hoping that the same sentence is handed to both convicts,” said Khan, adding that “the Allahabad High Court’s fault in acquitting Pandher would be brought out (in the open).” A Special Leave Petition challenging the acquittal of Pandher filed by Rimpa Haldar’s father is likely to come up for hearing in the coming week, Khan added. The petition says that the high court had erroneously acquitted Pandher based on the same circumstantial evidence on which Koli had been given the death sentence.

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