A view of the drain where the bodies and remains of the victims of the infamous Nithari serial killings were found in 2006, Noida, India, 16 October 2023. EFE/DAVID ASTA ALARES

Acquittal of 2 sentenced for infamous serial killings opens old wounds in India

By David Asta Alares

People on the road in Nithari village where the infamous serial killings occurred in 2006, Noida, India, 16 October 2023. EFE/DAVID ASTA ALARES

Noida, India, Oct 16 (EFE).- Jabbu Lal irons clothes less than a stone’s throw from the ditch in which his daughter’s body was found, along with the remains of four other women and 14 young people, near the Indian capital of New Delhi.

The two sentenced to death for these serial murders, dubbed as the Nithari killings by the Indian media, were acquitted Monday for lack of evidence.

“My only hope for justice remains in the hands of the almighty,” a resigned Lal, who works as a laundryman in the Nithari neighborhood of the city of Noida, told EFE.

The gruesome incident, which allegedly included cannibalism and necrophilia, shook India when it came to light almost two decades ago, in 2006.

Moreover, this is clubbed with accusations of police negligence into disappearances of children in the area for years due to their humble background.

A similar claim was reiterated by Amit Sharma, a resident of the neighborhood who was then 20 years old, during an interaction with EFE.

“Most of those killed, except one, came from other provinces such as Bihar,” Sharma said.

Moninder Singh Pandher and his help, Surendra Koli, lived in the house behind which the bodies were found, in an open sewer now overflowing with weeds. Both were arrested and subsequently sentenced to death by a sessions court.

They were eventually acquitted by the High Court of Allahabad, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Defense lawyer Manisha Bhandari told reporters after the trial that they were trying to secure release so that his clients could get free as soon as possible.

While Pandher was expected to be released soon, Koli had an appeal pending in the Supreme Court, he added.

The High Court found that the lack of sufficient evidence was grounds to commute the death sentence.

Lal, on his part, ascribed to the theory that the well-off defendant bribed witnesses and the police to cover his crimes.

“The verdict is flawed, and the judge’s decision is anything but just. It seems that they are being released only thanks to the influence of money, there can be no other reason,” he said, recalling how Koli confessed his crimes in court, including cannibalism and necrophilia.

Several of the victims’ relatives, among them RC Gautam, also made similar accusations of bribery during interactions with EFE, alleging that this was the reason for the authorities giving up pursuing the cases in court.

Only one laundryman was determined to pursue the case, but “he couldn’t accomplish much on his own,” Gautam said.

The killings took place between 2005 and 2006. According to police investigations, Koli lured the victims to his home, before he and Pandher raped and killed them.

Pandher and his help were arrested on Dec. 29, 2006, and although the authorities initially considered Koli to have acted alone, they soon implicated his employer as well.

While the case shocked Indian society at the time, the acquittal of the only two defendants has now caused astonishment. EFE