Get ready to delve into a bone-chilling story from India's recent past, the Nithari serial murders. These gruesome crimes occurred in the house of a businessman named Moninder Singh Pandher in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, between 2005 and 2006, which led to convictions and death sentences for the accused.
This incident from 2006 revealed the discovery of human remains around a house in Noida, which shook the entire nation. But in a shocking turn of events in 2023, the Allahabad High Court acquitted the prime accused, Surinder Koli, and his co-accused, Moninder Singh Pandher, citing insufficient evidence, marking a stunning twist in one of India's most notorious criminal investigations.
Let's delve into this article to discuss one of the most brutal & famous cases of murder: The Nithari Killings.
What is the Nithari Killings Case?
The Vanishing Children
Back in 2006, Noida was a far cry from its modern self. During 2005 and 2006, a series of alarming disappearances struck fear into the heart of the city. Multiple children had gone missing, leaving the police in dilemma. Among the vanished kids were a 10-year-old & 8-year-old girl. Desperate for answers, their fathers got suspicious about Surinder Koli, a domestic helper in the home of businessman Moninder Singh Pandher. The anxious fathers had even approached the police with their concerns, but their pleas went unheard. It was only when SC Mishra, former chief of the local residents' association, stepped in. Rumours started spreading in the area that the drain might hold the horrifying secret to the missing children's fate.
The Bone-Chilling Discovery
In December 2006, the fathers of the missing children decided to investigate the drain, which was untouched for months. Their fears turned into reality when, after just half an hour of searching, one of them stumbled upon a decomposed hand. Panic set in, and the cops were called immediately. By the time the police arrived, the local residents claimed they had unearthed parts of three bodies. The police's version stated that they had acted upon a confession by Surinder (domestic helper), which had led them to the drain.
Laws applied in Nithari Killings Case
In general, the Nithari killings case in Noida involved the application of several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other laws, primarily including:
1. Indian Penal Code (IPC)
- Sections related to murder (Sections 302 and 303).
- Sections concerning rape (Section 376).
- Sections related to kidnapping (Section 363).
- Sections on causing the disappearance of evidence of the offense or giving false information to screen offenders (Sections 201 and 202).
- Sections about the destruction of evidence (Section 204).
- Sections pertaining to criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B).
- Sections on common intention (Section 34).
- Sections about unnatural offenses (Section 377).
2. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): Various sections of the CrPC would have been invoked for the investigation and legal proceedings such as:
- Section 164 talks about the statements recorded by the Magistrate (Recording of confessions and statements).
- Section 319, which talks about a proceeding in respect of such a person, shall be commenced afresh, and witnesses reheard.
- Section 273. Evidence is to be taken in the presence of the accused.
- Section 368- The High Court can confirm the sentence given by the Session Court. or annul the conviction or convict the accused of the same charges as that of the Session Court or may order fresh proceedings on the same or altered charges.
- Other sections are Sections 423, 418(1), 376, 374 etc.
3. Evidence Act: Sections 138, 30, 27 etc.
4. CBI Manual: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may have followed its manual for conducting investigations in this complex case.
How many bodies were found in the Nithari Killings Case?
- Various conflicting reports emerged about the exact number of bodies found in the drain, with locals insisting there were as many as 15, while the police maintained they had discovered bones and skulls, making it impossible to determine an exact count.
- As the vague details emerged, Noida was left in shock, and questions loomed over the investigation's authenticity and the true extent of the horror. According to a rediff.com report, the police's version suggested they cracked the case while searching for a woman named Payal, a frequent visitor to Pandher's residence.
- Subsequently, Surinder Koli admitted to the murder of Payal and six children, with Pandher reportedly describing Payal as a sex worker he had hired whose body was chopped into thin pieces. The Nithari case was riddled with mysteries and controversies, leaving many questions unanswered.
Nithari Case Investigation Explained
- Right from the start, local residents voiced their dissatisfaction with the Uttar Pradesh Police's handling of the gruesome crime, even resorting to stone-pelting incidents.
- The situation escalated, leading to allegations of major police blunders and prompting the central government to appoint an inquiry panel. In response to public outrage, the government of Mulayam Singh Yadav suspended three senior police officers and multiple personnel.
- The central panel echoed these concerns, highlighting severe negligence on the part of the police. In April of that year, the case was handed over to the CBI, which ultimately revealed that there were at least 19 victims, with Payal being the sole adult among them. Medical examinations revealed a horrifying "butcher-like precision" in the dismemberment of the bodies.
- The CBI charged Surinder Koli with rape, murder, and destruction of evidence, though Pandher was not accused of rape or murder due to a lack of substantial evidence.
Judgment of Nithari Killings: High Court's Order of Acquittal
The Nithari case took a series of shocking turns in the legal realm. In 2009, both Pandher and Koli were convicted for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar, receiving the death penalty in a "rarest of rare" judgment. Koli faced five more death sentences in the following years, which were upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. Despite appeals and a petition to then President Pranab Mukherjee, Koli's execution was imminent in 2014 until a midnight order by Chief Justice HL Dattu postponed it by at least a week. In 2015, the Allahabad High Court commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment, citing excessive delays in deciding his mercy plea. Four years later, in 2019, Koli was handed another death sentence, bringing his total convictions to 13. However, the recent decision by the Allahabad High Court has acquitted him in 12 of these cases
In conclusion, the Allahabad High Court has acquitted Surinder Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher in this case, a verdict delivered after 17 long years. Citing a lack of evidence and setting aside the lower court's sentence, the High Court ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Notably, the CBI had filed closure reports in three out of the 19 cases due to insufficient evidence. While Pandher is currently incarcerated in a Noida jail, Koli remains imprisoned in Ghaziabad. This unexpected judgment has cast a new shadow of doubt and mystery over one of India's most chilling criminal investigations.