The Allahabad High Court acquitted Surinder Koli and businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, previously sentenced for the rape and murder of 19 women and children in Noida in 2005. The duo, arrested in 2006 after discovery of body parts near their residence, were convicted in 2009 in a case that appalled the nation.
Monday’s decision found Koli innocent in 12 cases in which he was previously sentenced to death. Pandher was acquitted in the two cases against him, with the verdict attributed to “lack of evidence”. The complete court judgement is awaited.
The heinous crimes became public in 2006 when remains and children’s apparel were discovered in a sewer outside Pandher’s home in a Noida suburb. Police initially alleged the murders occurred within Pandher’s residence, where Koli was employed. Koli, believed to have lured the children with treats, later retracted his confession of cannibalism and necrophilia, alleging police brutality.
The Central Bureau of Investigation filed 19 cases against the pair, with Koli charged for murder, abduction, rape, and evidence tampering, and Pandher for immoral trafficking. The “Nithari killings”, as they were named, sparked nationwide fury, with authorities criticized for alleged negligence and oversight due to victims’ socio-economic backgrounds.
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