Allahabad: In a major development the Allahabad High Court on Friday acquitted
businessman Moninder Singh Pandher in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old teenager Rimpa Haldhar, who was one of the children strangled at his Nithari residence.
The Allahabad High Court observed that there was no substantial evidence to prove Pandher’s criminal involvement in the case.
However, the Allahabad High Court upheld the death sentence awarded to his domestic help Surinder Koli.
The Allahabad HC ruling has sent shockwaves across the country and disappointed Rimpa’s family, which has confirmed that it will appeal against the judgement in the Supreme Court.
The development comes moths after MS Pandher and his servant Surinder Koli were sentenced to death by a special court in February for rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl Rimpa Halder, one of 19 victims in the sensational Nithari serial killings.
Pronouncing the sentence in a packed court room, Special CBI judge Rama Jain held the crimes committed by 55-year-old Pandher and 38-year-old Koli to be ‘‘rarest of rare’’ deserving capital punishment.
While the counsel of victim’s family Khalid Khan termed the verdict as a grave disappointement. The businessman’s son Karandeep Singh on the other hand said his father was innocent and the verdict was an endorsement of the family’s long term stand. He also cited his acquittal in some of the previous cases related with Nithari as a signal for things to come.
The Court had earlier convicted Pandher and his servant under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for murder, rape, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
In the final arguments on Friday, the CBI had sought death penalty for Koli and left the quantum of punishment for Pandher for the court to decide as the agency had no charges against him in this case.
As many as 18 cases have been lodged against Pandher in the infamous Nithari killings case.
Alld HC orders expunction of adverse remarks by trial court
The Allahabad High Court,
which acquitted Moninder Singh Pandher for want of evidence in
a Nithari killings case today, also ordered expunction of
adverse remarks made by the trial court against the counsel
for the CBI and two of the prime witnesses whereby
"impartiality" of the probe agency was "impeached".
"The Sessions Judge, before reckoning with the
incriminating circumstances against Pandher, had made certain
observations which in fact have the complexion of adverse
remarks against the Investigating Officer, the Magistrate (who
recorded the confessions), and the counsel for the CBI," a
Division Bench comprising Justice Imtiyaz Murtaza and Justice
Kashi Nath Pandey noted.
"We may sum up that the Sessions Judge was harsh
in criticizing the conduct of the witnesses and the counsel
for the CBI. In our view, the comment and criticism was
neither called for nor justified as there is nothing on record
to show that the witnesses were helping Pandher and therefore
it will be too much to impute motive to the witnesses," the
The observations came in the wake of certain remarks
in the judgement of Addl Sessions Judge/Special Judge (Anti
Corruption) UP, Ghaziabad, on February 12, 2009.
The lower court had taken exception to the fact that
recovery of an axe from Pandher’s house, though it was not
used in the murder of Rimpa Haldar, was not disclosed
The trial court had held that the CBI "did not
advance arguments against Pandher" despite prima facie
evidence against him and remarked "these counsels are
duty-bound to assist the court and not tell the prosecution
case as it is".
"Be that as it may, the criticisms embodied in
the judgement...are unwarranted and without any valid basis
and therefore, the same are ordered to be expunged under
Section 482 CrPC(exercise of inherent powers of High Court),"
the court ruled.
First Published: Friday, September 11, 2009, 23:38