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What sealed their fate?

The court awarded the death penalty to Moninder Singh Pandher on the basis of evidence. Abhishek Sharan reports.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2009 23:41 IST
Abhishek Sharan

Moninder Singh Pandher

The court awarded the death penalty to Moninder Singh Pandher (55), a supplier of earth-moving machines, for being part of the conspiracy behind Rimpa Halder’s murder, which it “found to be a rarest of rare crimes.”

The key ground for Pandher’s getting the death sentence, as cited in the order, was the fact that “on January 1, 2007, the aaree (saw)… which could be one of the crime’s weapons(sic)…was recovered at the instance of both Pandher and Koli according to prosecution witness Dinesh Yadav, later recorded by sub-inspector Raviraj Dikshit.

“According to the prosecution witnesses’ accounts, both the accused said the aaree used in the murders was hidden inside D-5 bungalow (in Sector 31, Noida). We will get it recovered,” said the order.

It added, recounting the witnesses’s accounts, “Inside the bungalow, Surendra and Moninder walked ahead and brought out an aaree from a window-sill, from behind a curtain.”

The order rejected a finding of the medical committee led by Dr Rajendra Singh (which conducted the cadaver test) that said the “murders were not committed with any sharp weapon having a saw-like edge.” The court reasoned, “The CBI had not informed the court about this recovery, which is very suspicious… It had sent two axes and a knife recovered at the instance of Koli, but not the aaree that Moninder helped in recovering. So, the committee’s finding does not prove Moninder’s innocence.”

The court overlooked the CBI’s evidence proving Pandher’s stay in Australia between January 30 and February 15, 2005 since it was not corroborated by independent witnesses. The court also pointed out that it was “unlikely that Pandher would not have got alerted by the slaughterhouse-like stench up to a kilometre from the bungalow or by the rotting corpses in the drain or the bathroom.

Surendra Koli

Thirty three-year-old Surendra Koli’s fate was sealed effectively owing to his voluntary confession made before a Delhi metropolitan magistrate in March 2007, in which he had “admitted to having lured Rimpa Halder, sexually assaulting, killing, then cannibalising her”.

“In a case without an eyewitness, the court depended on his judicial confession backed by corroborating and circumstantial evidence,” said the order.

The court also considered the video-footage of a cadaver test held at AIIMS, which “showed Koli coolly using a chalk on a body to demonstrate how he dismembered his victims and his method matched the cut-marks found on the skeletons.”

The order quoted selectively from the confession to prove Koli’s guilt: “In January or February of 2005, when I was alone at home, I saw a girl coming… I later learnt she was Rimpa… I called her in for work and told her to wait for madam to talk about the money.”

The confession continued, “When she was looking inside, I strangled her neck with her chunni and made her unconscious, then tried to have sex with her. After a while, when I failed to have sex, I killed her by strangulating (again).”

The court observed that the confession was corroborated by recoveries made by the police at the instance of Koli, including “Rimpa’s black bra and red-white chunni from a ditch behind the bungalow D-5, the weapon used (an axe and a knife hidden inside the bungalow-compound), her skull and bones from the ditch.” The DNA samples procured from Halder’s bones had matched with those of her father, auto-driver Anil, mother Dolly and brother Abhijeet.”

Koli sought to recant during the trial but the court pointed to portions “where he denied being under any pressure or fear and wanted to unburden his conscience.”