The news of Moninder Singh Pandher's acquittal in the Rimpa Halder murder case ushered painful silence inside the Halders' one-room residence in Noida.
As the news sunk in, the murdered daughter's parents — Anil and Dolly — erupted in anger and rushed towards D-5, Pandher’s deserted Nithari bungalow.
As a slightly inebriated Anil fumed, Dolly hurled abuses at the crowd comprising their neighbours, the media and policemen.
"Tum sab log chor ho… beimaan ho, CBI toh pehle se hi biki hui thi… (You all are thieves... the CBI had sold itself out from the start),” Dolly screamed.
The outraged couple even picked up stones and threatened to hurl them at the police and the media.
Dolly also warned camerapersons against clicking their pictures. “We will break your cameras,” she threatened.
Anil, who sobered up a little later, said, “The acquittal has shattered us…CBI Judge had given justice to us and awarded death sentence to Pandher too."
“The CBI was shielding Pandher from the beginning. Now we will fight in the Supreme Court."
“I could not eat after I heard about the acquittal," Dolly, her eyes red, pitched in.
Jhabbu Lal, father of a Nithari victim (Jyoti), alleged, “CBI has taken money from Pandher and prepared the case in such a way that he gets a clean chit from the higher courts.”
For Manisha Bhandari - one of the three lawyers defending Pandher - the judgment brought relief. "We had several strong reasons to prove his innocence. He was in Australia when Rimpa was raped and murdered,” she said.
V.K. Singh, superintendent of Ghaziabad Dasna jail, told HT, “On hearing the news, Pandher was beaming. He said it has increased his faith in the judiciary. Other inmates congratulated him."