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Mattoo case judge to defend Nithari convict Pandher

Feb 17, 2009 01:36 PM IST India India

New Delhi: There is a new twist in one of the most gruesome crimes the country's ever witnessed, the Nithari killings case. Sentenced to death in one of the rape and murder cases, help is coming in for Moninder Singh Pandher from Justice (Retired) RS Sodhi.

Though the court agreed that the two accused have now been sentenced to death, the legal battle isn't over yet.

When in the judge's chair at the Delhi high court, Justice Sodhi presided over many sensational cases, like the Jessica Lall murder case, the Tandoor murder and the Shashinath Jha murder case. He has even sent many crminals to the gallows including Priyadarshini Mattoo's killer Santosh Kumar Singh.

But he's now on the other side.

"The house belongs to him and therefore he must have known. You can't hold a person guilty for murder under 120B for 'must have known'. 'Must have known' is not 'he is in the know'," says Justice Sodhi.

The fact that there is no evidence which directly links Pandher to the conspiracy may come to his aid in the high court. By simply suggesting that Pandher would have been in the know of these horrific crimes is not enough to invite a conviction let alone a death penalty.

"I think if I may say so, the judge got emotinally involved. This therefore is not a judgment in law," says Justice Sodhi.

Senior lawyers also echo a similar sentiment, highlighting that Pandher cannot be held liable for Koli's gruesome actions.

Senior Advocate, Sanjay Hegde said, "The question is, did Pandher do any act of his own violation in furtherance of the conspiracy to murder Rimpa Haldar. That question does not seem to have been answered."

So expect some more twists and turns in the case, as it now enters round two in its legal battle. It will be interesting to see whether the high court reduces Pandher's sentence to life imprisonment or whether the noose will just get tighter around his neck.