The Allahabad high court on Friday stayed the execution of the death sentence of Surinder Koli in the gruesome Nithari serial killings case.
A division bench comprising chief justice DY Chandrachud and justice PKS Baghel passed the order on a Public Interest Litigation filed by NGO People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and fixed November 25 as the next date of hearing in the matter.
The court also asked the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to file their counter affidavits by the next date of hearing.
The high court order comes two days after the Supreme Court rejected Koli's plea to recall the death sentence which was awarded to him by a special CBI court in February, 2009.
In the PIL, PUDR has contended that Koli deserved "mercy on humanitarian ground" since he has suffered "mental torment" during the more than five-year-long period for which he has languished his jail awaiting verdicts on his numerous appeals and mercy petitions.
Koli, who worked as a domestic servant at the house of Noida-based businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, is facing the gallows for the murder of a 14-year-old girl Rimpa Haldar.
Both Koli and Pandher had been awarded death sentence in the Rimpa Haldar case though the latter was acquitted later by the Allahabad high court. Pandher, who had been held guilty by the trial court along with Koli in a number of other related cases also, was recently released on bail.
The killings came to light in December, 2006 when several residents of the Nithari village, located close to Pandher's bungalow in Sector 31 of Noida, approached the police with complaints of their children, mostly minor girls, having gone missing. During investigations, a number of skeletons were exhumed from near the house.
Following an outcry over alleged inept handling of the case by Uttar Pradesh police, the case was handed over to the CBI in January, 2007.
After his death sentence in the Rimpa Haldar case was upheld by the Allahabad high court vide the very order whereby Pandher was acquitted, Koli's subsequent appeal before the Supreme Court was turned down while his mercy petition was rejected by the President.
The trial court, thereafter, issued a death warrant on September 02 this year fixing September 12 as the date of hanging but the execution was stayed by the Supreme Court which decided to hear his recall petition in an open court.
However, on October 28, the Supreme Court dismissed the recall application, clearing the decks for execution of the death warrant.