As a CBI judge pronounced capital punishment to 55-year-old earthmoving equipment dealer Moninder Pandher and his 33-year-old domestic help Surendra Koli on Friday, the two reacted in contrasting ways.
<b1>Koli, who had confessed to hacking the body of 14-year-old Rimpa Halder before eating cooked portions from the victim’s breast and an arm, seemed keen on appealing against the verdict. Within minutes of the sentencing, he was seen asking for a copy of the judgement. “I want to read the judgement?” he told court staff.
Pandher, earlier given a clean-chit by the CBI, told his wife he doesn’t want to appeal in a higher court. “Please don’t appeal,” Pandher told his wife Devinder Kaur, as she held his hand.
"Let it be over please, no appeal now,” a composed-looking Pandher added as police constables moved the two convicts out of the packed courtroom.
The verdict is the first of the 19 cases of rape and murder including 15 children and three women of the Nithari killings case. In December 2006 there was nationwide revulsion after police recovered skulls, bones and body parts of 19 children and young women, who had allegedly been sexually abused, from a drain behind Pandher’s D-5 house in Noida’s Sector 31.
“I’d rather that my father is awarded a capital punishment. There are 18 other cases which will be fought on the same evidence and my father will be doomed in the jail for his entire life,” Pandher’s 25-year-old son Karandeep Singh told Hindustan Times before the sentencing.
But after the sentencing, Karandeep’s mother said she was not giving up and would fight till the end to prove Pandher innocent.
"Which man does not have a one-night stand these days? Who does not sleep with call girls? I accept these allegations may be true. But my husband cannot kill anyone nor can he ever sexually exploit a child,” said Kaur, his wife for 30 years.
“This is something for which only my mother can hold him guilty. Not the media, not a court of law,” said Karandeep, who left a course in political science at the University of Windsor in Canada midway to fight his father’s case.
Karandeep said his father was a victim of a media trial. “It has been proved beyond doubt that my dad was in Australia at the time of the incident. The CBI itself has ruled out his involvement but because of media pressure, my father was dragged into the case again,” he said.
Owing to stress, Pandher developed diabetes during his custody and is now being delivered insulin twice a day, Kaur said. The family alleged it had been made as a “rich versus poor” issue. “If a servant is indulging in a crime in your absence why are you holding the employer responsible?” Kaur said. “We never suspected his intentions and activities. I lived in that house (D-5 sector 31) from 2000 to 2005, but I could never suspect what all Koli has been doing. The house was always spic and span. Koli was a clever man and he knows what to say and what not to,” Kaur added.
The family also narrated the trauma they underwent looking for a lawyer to defend Pandher. “Criminal lawyers would hang up on us the moment we mentioned Nithari. A few demanded fees as high as Rs 50 lakh to consider his case,” Kaur said.
Kaur said she had clicked the alleged pictures of Pandher with nude children at their home. “The children in those pictures are my niece and nephews. Another picture, in which the media claimed my husband was seen with prostitutes, was actually of me with shorter hair and my young niece. But as the CBI had asked us not to speak to media, we never went out to clarify our position,” Kaur added.