Kohli's confession needs judicial scrutiny: Experts

Published on Sep 24, 2004 08:52 PM IST

Legal experts say Kohli can always go back on his TV confession in court saying media extracted it from him.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Chandigarh

Experts and police officials in Chandigarh were on Thursday debating the legal and ethical ramifications of Maninder Pal Singh Kohli's confession before TV that he had raped and murdered British schoolgirl Hannah Claire Foster.

The startling confession by Kohli on Wednesday in the presence of Punjab Inspector General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini that he "abducted, raped and later strangled" Hannah in Southampton on March 14 last year would need judicial scrutiny when the matter relating to his extradition to Britain comes up.

Kohli had escaped to India four days later after police suspected him of the heinous crime.

"The statement would not stand till the same is made by Kohli before a designated magistrate," a senior Punjab Police official pointed out.

"This confession would give credence to jokes that Punjab Police were capable of getting any confession out of anyone," another official said.

Punjab's top cop Saini has been associated with several controversial investigations in the state in the past and is reputed to be a hard taskmaster.

Police officials in Chandigarh are already questioning the manner in which Kohli was parroting his appreciation of Saini, Patiala district police chief AS Rai and three other officials dealing with his case.

While Saini is heading investigations against Kohli, Rai and others brought him from Kalimpong, West Bengal, where he was in police custody after his sensational arrest near the Nepal border on July 15.

Kohli also seemed to be quite at ease with Punjab Police officials when he was produced before a local court in Kharar town on Wednesday.

Though he was handcuffed even inside the court, police officials seemed to be instructing him on what to do since he had no lawyer representing him.

Hours later, he made the "confession" and expressed his willingness to be extradited to Britain and face charges there.

Chandigarh-based criminal lawyer RS Cheema said Kohli could always go back on the confession in court saying he was not in a mentally sound state and that the media extracted it from him.

"This would have serious ramifications as public perception would now hold him guilty after the publicity generated by the confession on TV and affect fair trial in the matter," Cheema added.

Hampshire constabulary communications officer Lucy Dibdin declined to comment on Kohli's confession to Indian Express newspaper on Thursday saying it would interfere with the legal process.

She said that the media in Britain had been urged not to publicise Kohli's statement or seek a reaction from Hannah's parents.

Another lawyer said that the TV interview could be used as evidence against Kohli.

Kohli's father Jagjit Singh said in Patiala that he felt his son was innocent.

"The confession is not clear. I don't know whether it was voluntary or under duress. I think he would come out clean on this in a trial in Britain," he said.

He said he sympathised with Hannah's parents, but hoped that courts would do justice and added that the Punjab Police was framing his two other sons in the case.

In his confession, Kohli said he was "quite drunk" when he saw Hannah for the first time, pulled her into his delivery van and raped her twice.

"I felt guilty after the incident and asked her to cooperate and not tell anyone. I told her that I had not done such a thing before and that I loved my wife and two children. I also told her that my mother was ailing and in coma in India. But she insisted on reporting the rape to the police and I strangled her to death," Kohli told TV channels.

He added that after returning to India he stayed with his family for 10 days and moved to cities all over India before settling for a new married life in Darjeeling.

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