'Betrayal Of Public Trust': Court Slams Investigators In Nithari Judgment

New Delhi:

The handling of the Nithari case, which involved serial killings of children in Delhi’s backyard Noida, was “botched” and was “nothing short of betrayal of public trust,” the Allahabad High Court has said in a scathing criticism of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Noida Police. The presentation of the case in court also left much to be desired, the judges indicated, saying the prosecution has failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt and left key angles, including the possibility of an organized organ trade, unexplored.

The horrific case that shocked the nation 17 years ago, brought to light the murder and dismemberment of 19 children and at least one woman.

Earlier today, the court cleared main accused Surinder Koli of all charges in 12 cases. His employer and co-accused Moninder Singh Pandher was acquitted in two cases. Their death sentences have been cancelled.

“The investigation otherwise is botched up and basic norms of collecting evidence have been brazenly violated,” the court said in its detailed order.  The manner of arrest, recovery of evidence and recording of confession was “casual” and “perfunctory”.

“It appears to us that the investigation opted for the easy course of implicating a poor servant of the house by demonizing him, without taking due care of probing more serious aspects of possible involvement of organized activity of organ trading,” read the order in the case that was based on confession of Pander’s domestic help Surinder Koli.

The investigators said Koli had confessed to the murder, rape of dead bodies and consumption of human flesh. The murders took place in Pandher’s house in Noida, and the men were arrested in December 2006 after body parts were found in an adjacent drain. In the months before that a number of children were reported to be missing from the area.

“The stand of the prosecution kept changing from time to time… Failure of investigation to probe involvement of organ trade, despite specific recommendations made by High level committee constituted by the ministry of women & child development in Nithari Killings is nothing short of a betrayal of public trust by responsible agencies,” the judgment read.

“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 CrPC is shocking to say the least,” the court said.

Koli was awarded five death sentences in five separate cases, but had a narrow shave twice. In 2014, the Supreme Court had upheld the death penalty after putting the execution on hold for a month. The matter had also reached then President Pranab Mukherjee. Mr Mukherjee rejected Koli’s mercy petition.

But the next year, the Allahabad High Court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment, citing the “inordinate” delay in deciding his mercy plea. Pandher is currently in a Noida jail, and Koli is in a jail in Ghaziabad.

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