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Nithari case: Failure of justice system

The acquittal by the Allahabad High Court of the accused in the 2006 Nithari serial killings is as shocking as the crime itself, which had shaken the nation with its cruelty and inhumanity. Over a decade and a half later, the two persons, Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder Koli, who had been found guilty and sentenced to death by lower courts on rape and murder charges, have been acquitted for lack of evidence.

The two had been accused of rape, murder, pornography and cannibalism. The skeletal remains of at least eight children had been found in a drain near their house, and there were, in all, 19 children and one woman who were thought to have been killed. The children had disappeared from localities in Noida. After so many years, it now turns out that no-one killed the children, though there was conclusive proof that they had all been murdered.

The CBI had taken over the case and investigated it. The court has passed severe strictures against the agency and said it was disappointed with its handling of the case. It observed that the agency had dealt with the case in a casual and perfunctory manner.

The CBI also failed to probe the involvement of organ trading rackets in the case, though a committee appointed by the government had pointed to that possibility.

The investigation had been bungled from the time of collection of evidence, and the court found the prosecution had totally failed to prove the case beyond doubt.

The local police had not taken any action on reports about missing children and had not investigated them. The case was transferred to the CBI in the hope that it would bring the guilty to book but now the case is dead just as the children are.

If this is the state of investigation in one of the most sensational cases in recent history, how would ordinary cases fare? Aspecial CBI court in Ghaziabad had found the two accused guilty, the case rarest of rare and the convicts deserving of the death penalty.

The acquittal of the accused by the High Court strengthens the demand for abolition of the death penalty but that is not the main issue involved in the case. The main issue is that justice has not been done to the victims and their families, most of whom are poor.

The country’s justice system has failed them and all others who thought that justice would prevail. Failure of justice in cases such as this leads to loss of faith in the system of justice as such and to the demands for delivery of instant justice outside the law.

(Published 18 October 2023, 20:15 IST)

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