PRAYAGRAJ: In a 308-page verdict on Monday that acquitted Surendra Koli (SK) and his employer Moninder Singh Pandher for the Nithari serial murders, a two-judge bench of justices Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Syed Aftab Husain Rizvi came down heavily on the investigating agencies for a “botched up” investigation and betraying public trust.
The Nithari murders were committed between 2005 and 2006. The matter came to light when in December 2006, skeletons were found in a drain near a house in Nithari, Noida. Later, it was found that Moninder Pandher was the owner of the house and Koli was his domestic help. Subsequently, the CBI, which was investigating the case, registered 16 cases, charge sheeting Surinder Koli in all of them for murders, abductions and rapes besides destruction of evidence, and Pandher in one for immoral trafficking. Surinder Koli was found guilty of rape and murder of several girls and was sentenced to death in over 10 cases.
Here are the six top observations made by the high court in its verdict.
“We express our disappointment at the manner in which Nithari killings, particularly the disappearance of victim A, has been investigated. The prosecution case is based upon the confession of accused SK, made to U.P. Police on 29 December 2006. Procedure required to be followed for recording the accused’s disclosure leading to recovery of biological remains i.e. skulls, bones and skeleton etc. has been given a complete go by.”
“The investigation otherwise is botched up and basic norms of collecting evidence have been brazenly violated. It appears to us that the investigation opted for the easy course of implicating a poor servant of the house by demonising him, without taking due care of probing more serious aspects…”
“The failure of investigation to probe the possible involvement of organ trade, despite specific recommendations made by the High Level Committee constituted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India, in Nithari killings is nothing short of a betrayal of public trust by responsible agencies.”
“Loss of life of young children and ladies is a matter of serious concern particularly when their lives were brought to an end in a most inhuman manner but that, in itself, would not justify denial of fair trial to the accused nor would it justify their punishment even in the absence of evidence to implicate them.”
“Prosecution evidence has kept changing with the stage of investigation and ultimately all explanations are furnished in form of confession of accused SK, by throwing all possible safeguards to the winds. The manner in which confession is recorded after 60 days of police remand without any medical examination of accused; providing of legal aid; overlooking specific allegation of torture in the confession itself; failure to comply with the requirement of Section 164 Cr.P.C. is shocking to say the least.”
“The stand of the prosecution regarding crime in question kept changing from time to time. Initial prosecution case was against accused SK and the owner of House No. D-5 Moninder Singh Pandher and even recoveries made were attributed jointly to them. Successive remand applications filed by the prosecution clearly reflects it. However, with passage of time, the guilt was fastened exclusively upon accused SK.”