On December 29, 2006, skulls and bones of up to 18 children were found in a drain in front of a businessman’s house in Noida, an industrial township in Uttar Pradesh bordering Delhi.
The skeletal remains were of children gone missing from Nithari village at Noida’s doorstep, children of poor people who make a living by pulling rickshaws or working in posh houses nearby.
Close to a year after the worst serial murder case shook the nation, parents of the dead children feel “the killers will never be punished because they are rich and the investigators were protecting them.”
Such a feeling first gained currency when the Noida Police were suspected of protecting suspects Moninder Singh Pandher, the businessman in front of whose house the drain that disgorged the skeletal remains runs, and Surinder Koli, his cook.
During a game of cricket played near the businessman’s house — D5 or ‘Khooni Kothi (Killer Mansion’ as people call it) — the ball once went inside the house. When children went inside, they saw bones. They told the police about it: two policemen came to the house, only to dismiss the bones as “those of animals”.
The case was then handed to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
But the CBI, too, couldn’t convince the victims’ parents of a fair probe when on March 22, filing the first chargesheet in the case, did not charge Pandher with either murder or rape in any of the 16 cases it had probed till then.
“The CBI completely shattered our confidence. We have lost faith in it. The agency weakened our case. The Noida Police were much better. At least, they charged Pandher with murder and rape,” said Papu Lal, father of Rachna, one of the victims.
The case, however, took a turn in September when a Ghaziabad court ordered framing of additional charges (murder, abduction, rape and destruction of evidence) against Pandher in one case.
“The court subsequently ordered framing of additional charges against Pandher in three more cases,” said Khalid Khan, who represents majority of the cases linked to Nithari killings.
In another twist, Koli, who had confessed to the murders before a metropolitan magistrate, told the Ghaziabad court he was innocent.
Another controversy followed when Jatin Sarkar, father of Pinki Sarkar, one of the victims, died under mysterious circumstances in Murshidabad on September 1. “He had been receiving threats to his life from the CBI and had filed a complaint with the police,” Khan said.