Nithari: Can Pandher be unaware of crimes?

"How could Pandher be unaware of serial crimes taking place in his house," was a poser by SC.

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2011, 22:27 PM IST

New Delhi: "How could Moninder Singh Pandher
be unaware of serial crimes taking place inside his house,"
was a poser by the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday kept pending the
CBI`s appeal against his acquittal in a Nithari killing case.

"Let the appeal be kept pending and wait for the outcome
of other (Nithari) cases. It is a composite case and all cases
are related to each other.

"It would have effect one way or other on other pending
cases. It is not an isolated case and is about a series of
murders. You have been charged with serial killings," a bench
comprising justices Markandey Katju and Gyansudha Misra said.

However, the decision evoked objection from RS Sodhi,
a former Delhi High Court judge and counsel for 54-year-old
Pamdher, who said each case is different from the other and
cannot be connected and the appeal against his acquittal be
decided as he has been in jail since the cases surfaced in
2005.

The bench upheld the death sentence awarded to Pandher`s
domestic help Surinder Koli for murdering 14-year-old Rimpa
Haldar, one of the victims in the serial rape-cum-killing
cases, saying they were "horrifying" and "barbaric".

"How could he be unaware of the serial crimes taking place
inside and near his (Pandher`s) house," the bench said while
expressing dissatisfaction over Sodhi`s arguments and making
clear that any decision on his appeal might have a bearing on
many cases pending against him.

"If he is acquitted by this court at this stage when other
cases are for trial, the entire evidence in those cases will
go," the bench said.

"What about other cases going against you. You were in
Australia only for 15 days out of two years during which
murders and rapes were going on in your building. It is
difficult to believe that you were not aware of them. It is
not a case of one murder but 18 and it might have been done
with your approval," the bench said.

While the bench was making the remarks, Sodhi said the
matter was still subjudice and pleaded that the judges
restrain themselves from making observations.

"Don`t make observations. They would adversely hurt my
case," the senior advocate said.

Taking the statement of Sodhi very strongly, the bench
chided him for trying to "rein in the court".

"You have to respect our anxiety. Don`t try to rein us by
making such statements," the bench said, adding, "You are
living in the house and saying that that you were not aware of
what was going on inside your house."

It said, "We appreciate your anxiety. You should also
appreciate our anxiety...These are only tentative observations
based on our view and can change during the course of
arguments."

Realising that the bench was not in favour of continuing
hearing Pandher`s case, Sodhi did not further argue on the
court`s decision to keep the CBI`s appeal pending.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for victim`s
family accused the CBI of protecting Pandher.

However, the bench said, "It is not fair to make
allegations. Why would CBI try to protect him?"

The allegations were made by the counsel appearing for
Rimpa Haldar`s family.

The bench even said, "Pandher has to be given benefit of
doubt (in the Rimpa Haldar case).

"There is no direct involvement of Pandher in the killing
of Rimpa Haldar. He was in Australia (when the murder
happened)," the bench said.

A total of 16 cases were registered in connection with the
Nithari killings. Pandher was sentenced to death in the Rimpa
case but he was acquitted by the Allahabad High Court.
Pandher was booked in six cases.

PTI