The death sentence to Surinder Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher, given by a CBI court at Ghaziabad, in connection to one of the 16 cases pertaining to the Nithari killings, is only the second case, so far, in which both have been convicted. In the first case, a CBI court at Ghaziabad in 2009 had similarly given both the accused the death penalty. However, after an appeal, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Pandher for lack of evidence while upholding Koli’s punishment for lack of evidence.
As in the 2009 one, in this case too which pertains to Pinki Sarkar (20), Pandher wasn’t initially named in the charge-sheet. Pandher’s conviction is under “IPC sections relating to murder, rape and destruction of evidence. These sections are to be read along with IPC section 120B, which relates to criminal conspiracy,” said J P Sharma, the CBI prosecutor in the case.
Sources said that the investigation by the CBI did not make Pandher an accused in the case. On the day of her death, Pandher was “in his company’s office in sector 2 till about 1:30 pm and thereafter left for Dehradun” in his SUV along with his driver and checked into a hotel there “at 11:27 pm”, said documents pertaining to the case.
The charge-sheet filed by the CBI court added, “No evidence has surfaced showing the involvement of the accused Mohinder Singh Pandher” in Sarkar’ abduction and murder, it said. However, under section 319 of the CrPC the CBI court summoned Pandher, on the basis of an application moved by the victim’s family, said sources.
This is an echo of the 2009 order, in the case of Rimpa Haldar (14), who was murdered on February 8, 2005. The CBI court, before giving them both the death sentence and had summoned Pandher, primarily on the ground that a number of murders had been committed in the house he owned. But the Allahabad High Court would in 2011 opine that the summoning of Pandher under section 319 of CrPC was incorrect, since the prosecution was able to prove that Pandher was in Australia from January 30 to February 15 – something that was corroborated by Koli’s testimony.
Incidentally, Pandher had been granted bail by the Allahabad High Court in 2014 in six cases, one of which was the Pinki Sarkar case, the defense lawyer, Devraj Singh said. Moreover, in the 16 charge-sheets filed by the CBI, he was made an accused in only one case – which pertained to “Badi Payal” where the complainant was her father Nand Lal – under charges of immoral trafficking. Notwithstanding this, in six cases, during the course of the trial, Pandher was summoned and made a co-accused under section 319 of the CrPc.
The police found 15 skulls and a number of bones at Moninder Pandher’s house at Nithari. Of them belonged to Pinki Sarkar (20) – the last victim in the Nithari killings. She was eventually identified through her black hair clip, discarded salwar suit, slippers and the chunni which was used to strangle her. Documents pertaining to the case say that the investigation “establishes” that Surinder Koli “strangulated her with her own chunni” and “killed her”, also “attempt(ing) to rape her”.