In a major reprieve to Nithari killer Surinder Koli, the Allahabad High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to him in the first case that was decided in Ghaziabad in February 2009.
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) had filed a PIL, seeking commutation of Koli’s death sentence on grounds of inordinate delay in disposing of his mercy petition.
The court had asked for all papers related to the mercy petition filed before the UP Governor’s office and the President.
“There had been a delay of around 3 years and 3 months. Since he was arrested, he had been subjected to solitary confinement. Following our petitions, the appeal was allowed and a detailed order would arrive soon,” said Koli’s advocate Siddharth Sharma.
The court said reasons cited by the states advocate general Vijay Bahadur Singh for the delay in the execution of the death sentence of Koli were “unsatisfactory”.
CBI charged-sheeted Koli in 16 Nithari cases out of which 11 are still under trial and he has been awarded the death penalty in 5 cases by the Ghaziabad High Court. The Supreme Court had earlier cleared the death sentence of Koli in Rimpa Haldar case in 2011. Following this, Koli had filed a mercy petition. However, the news did not come as much of a surprise to Koli, who is being held at Dasna jail in Ghaziabad. “When he heard the news, he did not react at all. He just said “Mere liye nyay ke darwaze khul chuke hain aur ummeed hai ki agey bhi nyay mil jayga… (I have got justice today and hopefully in future too I will receive the same),” Dasna jail superintendent SP Yadav told HT.
Officials said Koli behaved as if he knew that his death penalty would be commuted to life imprisonment. Even while going to Meerut jail a couple of months back for execution of his death sentence, he had assured jail authorities that he “will be back.”
“The legal cell and other inmates were happy. These people have formed a bond with each other and want fast disposal of their cases. When they heard about Koli’s sentence, they were also hopeful that their cases would also be decided in their favour,” Yadav said.
Nithari came into limelight in 2006 following disappearances of many minor girls. The police and later the CBI found skeletons in the premises and from a drain near the house of businessman Moninder Singh Pandher. Surendra Koli was employed as a domestic help by Pandher. Police found that girls were lured into Pandher’s house where they were killed after being assaulted sexually.
According to prosecution, Koli used to butcher the victims and dispose of their skeletons into the nearby drain. As many as 19 minor children and young women were believed to have been raped and killed in the Pandher household.