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Nithari killings: SC agrees to hear plea of victim's father against acquittal of Surendra Koli

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New Delhi, May 4 (PTI) The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea challenging Allahabad High Court's order acquitting Surendra Koli in the 2006 Nithari serial killings case.

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A bench of Justice BR Gavai, Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sandeep Mehta issued a notice on an appeal filed by one Pappu Lal, the father of one of the victims.

Senior advocate Geeta Luthra and advocates Rupesh Kumar Sinha and Sataroop Das, appearing for Lal, submitted that the high court erred in its finding.

The bench issued the notice and sought the response of Koli on Lal's plea and directed the registry to call for records from the trial court and the high court.

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In his plea, Lal challenged the high court's October 16 order and has arrayed only Koli as the party. Koli was the domestic help of Moninder Singh Pandher.

In the case of Lal, Pandher was acquitted by the sessions court while Koli was awarded the death penalty on September 28, 2010. The case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

On October 16, the high court pronounced verdicts on several appeals filed by Koli and Pandher, who were awarded the death penalty by the trial court.

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It acquitted the pair while holding that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt "beyond reasonable doubt" and that the investigation was "botched up".

The verdict brought back memories of the chilling crime targeting children that came to light after skeletal remains were found behind a bungalow in Noida.

Reversing the death sentence given to Koli in 12 cases and Pandher in two, the high court noted the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of both the accused "beyond reasonable doubt, on the settled parameters of a case based on circumstantial evidence" and that the probe was "nothing short of a betrayal of public trust by responsible agencies".

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Pandher and Koli were charged with rape and murder and sentenced to death in the killings that horrified the nation with its details of sexual assault, brutal murder and hints of possible cannibalism.

The high court had observed that prosecution was based on the confessional statement given by Koli to the Uttar Pradesh Police on December 29, 2006, but the procedure required to be followed for recording his disclosure, leading to the recovery of biological remains ie skulls, bones and skeleton etc, were given a "complete go by".

It allowed multiple appeals filed by Koli and Pandher, who had challenged the death sentence awarded by a CBI court in Ghaziabad.

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The high court noted that the prosecution's stand kept changing from time to time as it initially attributed recoveries jointly on Pandher and Koli but, over time, the "guilt was fastened exclusively" upon Koli.

In all, 19 cases had been lodged against Pandher and Koli in 2007.

The CBI filed closure reports in three cases due to lack of evidence. In the remaining 16 cases, Koli was earlier acquitted in three and his death sentence in one was commuted to life.

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The sensational killings came to light with the discovery of the skeletal remains of eight children from a drain behind Pandher's house at Nithari in Noida, bordering the national capital, on December 29, 2006.

Further digging and searches of drains in the area around Pandher's house led to more skeletal remains being found. Most of these remains were that of poor children and young women who had gone missing from the area.

Within 10 days, the CBI took over the case and its search resulted in the recovery of more remains. PTI MNL MNL SZM

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