Truth Will Be The Casualty

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The end is nigh The decks have been cleared for Surender Koli’s execution after the Supreme Court rejected the review petition filed against his death sentence
The end is nigh The decks have been cleared for Surender Koli’s execution after the Supreme Court rejected the review petition filed against his death sentence, Photo: AP

Surender Koli is now counting the ghastly minutes until he is hanged after the Supreme Court rejected a review petition filed against his death sentence.

Both Koli and his former employer Moninder Singh Pandher were accused of murder in 16 cases. Both were convicted for the murder of Rimpa Halder in 2009, but, two years later, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Pandher while upholding Koli’s conviction and death sentence. The Supreme Court confirmed Koli’s conviction and death sentence in 2011 and, later, the President of India rejected Koli’s mercy plea.

After a recent apex court ruling, Koli was literally saved from the noose by a couple of hours (Pulled back from the gallows, 20 September).

The crux of the prosecution case lay on Koli’s confession, which, he confided to his lawyers, was extracted by torture. Koli was in no mental state to say anything and the doctor conducting his statutory medical examination ignored his wounds.

Koli, who for days later would cringe and confess at the very sight of a uniformed person, ‘confessed’ before the magistrate that he had done it.

The motive that the CBI had propagated was that Koli was a cannibal and necrophilia was also involved. Even this purported motive, which helped convict Koli in a media trial, is important for the foundation of a more chilling counter-narrative that may exonerate Koli.

During the investigation of a young woman who went missing, the police had picked up Pandher for questioning. The police suspected that the woman was a commercial sex worker, whose services Pandher often employed. It was later found to be a false case, but Pandher insisted upon Koli being summoned and even sent his personal car to Koli’s hometown near Almora in Uttarakhand. Upon arrival, he was bundled into the lockup and while the two were in custody, remains of 19 bodies were “discovered” by locals in a drain behind Pandher’s residence in Nithari village next to Sector 29 of Noida, Uttar Pradesh, barely 10 km from New Delhi.

In the court, veteran lawyer and jurist Ram Jethmalani pointed out a factual lapse in the trial proceedings. The trial court had not examined the report of the autopsy conducted on the discovered corpses and the autopsy surgeon had not been cross-examined. The legal system allows appeals only on the basis of points of law; while factual lapses and details previously ignored or found afresh are not entertained.

The counter-narrative that exists buried under torture-extracted confessions, poorly conducted trials and inefficient defence counsel is much grislier than any theories of necrophilia and cannibalism.

Earlier, Tehelka had pointed out that Pandher’s residence shares a boundary wall with a clinic that was run by a controversial doctor (Hanging Koli may bury the truth of Nithari killings, 30 August). At one point, the police had even hauled this doctor in for questioning but never followed up this angle or the doctor’s probable complicity in the matter.

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development had conducted a probe into the Nithari killings and released a report titled ‘Investigating into allegations of large-scale sexual abuse, rape and murder of children in Nithari village of Noida, Uttar Pradesh’.

In the report, the ministry-appointed committee observed that “since the modus operandi and the motive of the killings are not clear, the CBI should look into all angles, including organ trade, sexual exploitation and other forms of crime against women and children. In view of the fact that the CBI investigation is discovering more bodies spread over a larger area, the involvement of other persons as well as a larger geographical spread needs to be investigated”.

The committee reported that the then district medical superintendent also observed interesting issues during the autopsy.

During its visit on 10 January 2007, the committee met Dr Vinod Kumar, MD, the chief medical superintendent, Noida, under whose supervision the postmortem was conducted on bodies identified after assembling the bones/skulls found at the site. Dr Kumar indicated that it was intriguing to observe that the middle part of all the bodies (torsos) was missing. According to him, such missing torsos give rise to a suspicion that the wrongful use of bodies for organ sale, etc, could be possible.

According to him, the surgical precision with which the bodies were cut also pointed to this fact. He stated that the organs of small children were in demand as these were required for organ transplant.

A body generally takes more than three months to start decomposing and the entire process continues for nearly three years. Since many of the reported cases related to children having been killed less than a year back, it is a matter for investigation as to why only bare bones were discovered. He did not favour the theory of cannibalism as it could be a ruse to divert attention from the missing parts of the bodies.

The autopsy also shows that a surgical blade was used to cut the corpses and no such weapon was ever recovered from the uneducated Dalit servant nor was there any proof that he could use such an instrument.

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