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Pandher, Koli get death; Nithari celebrates

Feb 13, 2009 02:54 PM IST India India

Ghaziabad: Businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surendra Koli were on Friday awarded the death sentence for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl--the first punishment in the gruesome murders of 19 children and young women from Nithari village near Noida city in Uttar Pradesh. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court ruled that the rape and murder of Rimpa Halder was the “rarest of rare” crime and deserved capital punishment. Of the 19 cases of abduction, rape and murder, the CBI has filed charge-sheets in 16 cases. All the cases are being heard separately. Koli, 38, has been charged with rape, abduction and murder in all the cases and Pandher, 55, is co-accused in six cases. The courtroom, packed with relatives of the victims who were raped, murdered and some eaten, fell into silence as judge Rama Jain pronounced her sentence. "No more penalty could be awarded to the accused persons otherwise. They deserve more punishment as their act of murder and rape in this particular case was beyond all the canons of humanity," the judge said. Pandher, a supplier of earth-moving machines, looked dejected and resigned when the court announced the punishment. It was behind his bungalow in Noida that the body parts of the victims were found in December 2006. His estranged wife Devinder Kaur and son Karandeep were present as the death sentence was pronounced. "Don't worry, we'll appeal to a higher court," Devinder told her husband and tried to hug him before police whisked him away. "I can't let my dad die," Karandeep told IANS. "Although my father said 'let me die', we will be filing an appeal in the high court," Karandeep said about his father, a member of India's elite old boy's club having graduated from St. Stephen's College and done his schooling from Bishop Cotton in Shimla. There was no such support for Koli, who hails from a village in Uttarakhand, who stood surrounded by policemen, his face covered with a black balaclava. It was pulled down by police, probably for the cameras, and Koli seemed ready to burst into tears. But for Rimpa's father Anil Haldar, an autorickshaw driver who has lived with the knowledge that his daughter was sexually abused and cannibalised, the ruling was some sort of vindication. PAGE_BREAK "I am really happy and both should be hanged. Other children in the country will be safe now," Haldar said. His neighbours in Nithari were exuberant. "I finally have some hope of getting justice for my child. I distributed sweets but the actual celebration will take place the day these two butchers are actually hanged," said Ram Kishan, whose three-and-a-half year old son Harsh was one of the victims. The celebrations had begun on Thursday itself, when the CBI court convicted Pandher and Koli, but it was the death sentence that they wanted for the employer and employee who played out the savage drama of death. The court awarded Koli and Pandher capital punishment and Rs.50,000 penalty for murder; life imprisonment and Rs.20,000 for kidnapping; seven years in jail and Rs.20,000 each for sexual assault, tampering with evidence and attempt to commit an offence. Lawyer Khalid Khan, who is representing the Nithari victims, said the verdict was a slap in the face of the CBI. "It's a big defeat for the CBI. The agency tried to save Pandher. It needs to do self-introspection and change its investigation process," he said, referring to the fact that the CBI in its chargesheet in May 2007 had exonerated Pandher of abduction, rape and murder." CBI's lawyer Jai Prakash Sharma said the CBI did its best in the case, but that the court always has the final say. "What the CBI found , it produced in the court. It's upto the court to decide after that. The court has more powers. Pandher was charged under immoral trafficking by CBI," he said. It said Haldar was strangled and then cut to pieces by Koli with two kitchen knives and an axe four years ago. It also said Koli was suffering from necrophilia (urge to have sex with a corpse) and necrophagia (urge to eat the flesh of a body), but left Pandher out on grounds that he was out of the country. Two months later, however, the court reprimanded the investigating agency and Pandher was made co-accused with Koli. In its response to the ruling, the CBI said it was satisfied with judgment against Koli. In Pandher case, however, it said "further action if any would be taken only after court order is examined and on the basis of legal advice". In its charge-sheet, the CBI had mentioned that Pandher was in Australia with his wife when the incident had taken place and also attached his passport details, a contention rejected by the court. According to CBI prosecutor Suresh Batra, Koli is the only living paraphilic (psychosexual disorder), necrophilic and paedophilic in the world. Koli lured women and children to Pandher’s bungalow before killing them and later having sex with their bodies. He cooked and ate the flesh of some his victims, said CBI lawyer S P Ahluwalia. The horrific saga began unfolding in December 2006 when police stumbled across the first of the human skulls close to Pandher's Noida bungalow next to Nithari village. Subsequently, more bones were found in the drain behind the bungalow revealing the enormity of the crime. Eventually, investigations revealed that the remains belonged to four women and 15 children who over two years had been lured into the house, raped, killed and then mutilated. As Pandher and Koli join the long list of people waiting to be hanged, they also find themselves at the centre of the debate between pro-life activists and Nithari kin thirsting for revenge. (With inputs from IANS and PTI)