Noida-based businessman Moninder Singh Pandher’s acquittal has not come as a surprise to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The case involved the kidnapping, attempted rape and murder of teenaged domestic help Rimpa Halder four years ago. The CBI had no case against Pandher but was directed to frame charges by a Ghaziabad special court in July 2007, which awarded him death in the case on February 13.
The agency, whose original chargesheet had held Pandher’s domestic help Surendra Koli solely responsible for the crimes, had not come across any evidence against Pandher in this case.
Pandher’s passport and visa details, which were later authenticated by a Central government agency, had proved Pandher was in Melbourne (in Australia) between January 30, 2005 and February 15, 2005 to attend a “business conference”.
Halder, the CBI probe had established, was lured inside Pandher's D-5 bungalow at Nithari around 11.30 a.m. on February 8, 2005 by Koli.
But Sessions Judge Rama Jain, in her judgment delivered on February 13, 2009, had dismissed Pandher’s “absence from the scene of the crime” since “independent witnesses” had not verified the claim.
The judge held the testimony of the second witness in the case — Rimpa's father autorickshaw driver Anil Halder — as the main ground on which she convicted Pandher and awarded him death.
Halder had said, on December 30, 2006, a hacksaw — “which could be a crime weapon” according to Jain — was recovered from Pandher's house. On Friday, however, the high court dismissed Halder's testimony, terming his account as “suspicious and not impartial”.
The division bench's order said that the facts on record showed the hacksaw was recovered on January 1, 2007 and “not December 30, 2006” as Anil had said.
The order also said, Anil and his wife didn’t mention in the police compliant lodged on January 3, 2007 about the recovery of the hacksaw or of Pandher's alleged statement to the police that he had got “sex-worker” Payal, one of the 19 Nithari victims, killed by Koli since she was blackmailing him.