The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli, who had confessed to killing and eating the flesh of several children at a house in Noida’s Nithari village, after he moved an urgent plea for his review petition to be heard in open court.
Koli’s plea is based on a recent Supreme Court verdict ending a 60-year-old practice of hearing review petitions in the privacy of judges’ chambers, where advocates are not allowed to present their arguments.
A three-judge bench held a hearing at 1.40am on Monday and stayed his execution for a week.
“Considering the urgency of the matter, we stay the execution of the death sentence of applicant/ petitioner for a period of one week from today,” the bench ordered.
The order was immediately communicated to authorities at Meerut jail, where he was imprisoned.
Koli and his employer Moninder Singh Pandher, a Noida businessman, were arrested in 2006 for the gruesome killing of several children and dumping their remains in the backyard of Pandher’s house at Nithari village in Noida.
Police recovered 17 skeletal remains of children from the house that was dubbed by the media as the “house of horrors”.
A lower court sentenced Koli to death in 2005 for the murder of 14-year-old Rimpa Halder, one of the victims, a decision that was upheld by the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court.
The high court, however, acquitted Pandher in the same case. On July 24, the SC turned down Koli’s review petition and the President too rejected his mercy petition.
He was to be hanged on Monday. Asian Centre for Human Rights director and coordinator of the National Campaign for the Abolition of Death Penalty in India Suhas Chakma welcomed the order, saying it would help in further investigation of the murders.
“The family members of victims in 11 other pending cases against Koli will be deprived of justice if he is to be executed before conclusion of these trials.
Further, Koli is the only witness in six cases pending against Moninder Singh Pandher for the killings. The only witness obviously cannot be executed before the end of the trials... otherwise, the court will be inadvertently favouring Pandher,” said Chakma.
Later in the day, in an apparent reference to the order passed after midnight, Chief Justice of India R M Lodha lauded the steps taken by the apex court in urgent matters.
“If the court can sit at even 2am, it means the system in working better,” he observed.