Nithari case: HC commutes Koli’s death term to life imprisonment
The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of Nithari serial killings case convict Surender Koli into life imprisonment on the ground of “excessive and explained delay” in deciding his mercy petitions both by the President and the UP Governor.
Koli is lodged at the Dasna jail in Ghaziabad.
Allowing a PIL filed by People’s Union for Democratic Rights, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and Justice Pradeep Kumar Singh Baghel held that execution of Koli’s death sentence would be “unconstitutional in view of the excessive and the explained delay” on the part of the President and the UP Governor in deciding his mercy petitions.
The PIL had sought commutation of Koli’s death sentence into life imprisonment on the ground of excessive delay of three years and three months in deciding his mercy petitions. Also, the execution of death sentence would be in violation of the right to life granted under Article 21 of the Constitution in view of the delay, the PIL claimed.
It also questioned the constitutionality of the execution of the sentence of death on the ground of delay on the part of constitutional authorities — President and Governor — in disposing the mercy petitions under Article 72 and Article 161 of the Constitution.
“The delay in executing the death sentence caused unnecessary and unavoidable pain, suffering and mental torment to the convict. Therefore, the order rejecting the mercy petitions could be challenged on the ground of delay and wrong consideration,” the PIL had contended.
A petition subsequently filed by Koli himself, challenging the death sentence on the same ground as the one stated in the PIL, was also clubbed with it.
An FIR of missing girl Rimpa Halder was registered in 2005. The police arrested Surendra Koli in connection with this case on December 29, 2006, and later the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed chargesheet in Nithari killing case in May 2007.
Additional sessions judge, Gautam Budh Nagar, had on February 13, 2009, awarded death sentence to Koli in Nithari killing case. Thereafter, the Allahabad High Court upheld the death sentence on September 11, 2009. Later, the Supreme Court dismissed Koli’s appeal and upheld the death sentence on February 15, 2011.
Koli then moved a mercy petition before the Uttar Pradesh governor on May 7, 2011 who rejected it after 23 months on April 2, 2013. Thereafter, the mercy petition was forwarded to the Union Home Ministry on July 19, 2013 and was turned down by the President on July 20, 2014.
The PIL was filed on October 31, 2014 last year, three days after the Supreme Court rejected Koli’s recall application.
The death warrant issued by the trial court on September 2, 2014 had fixed September 12,2014 as the date of hanging, though its execution was stayed in view of the apex court’s decision to hear the recall application. However, the rejection of the recall application cleared the decks for the execution of the death sentence but it was stayed by the Allahabad High Court on October 31,2014 when it decided to hear the PIL.
At one stage, the court had agreed to hear the PIL disagreeing with the Centre’s preliminary objection that the convict Koli had not filed a petition at the time of filing of the PIL, challenging the rejection of his mercy petition. The court had said that the proceeding which was instituted before this court was not in the nature of an appeal on merits against the order of conviction. The petition seeks to question the constitutionality of the execution of the sentence of death in the present case, on the ground of a delay on the part of constitutional authorities in disposing the mercy petitions, the court had added.
To recall, Pandher and his domestic help Koli were arrested on December 29, 2006, after the police recovered skeletons and other belongings of missing girls from the drain outside his house in Noida on the outskirts of the National Capital.
Koli had allegedly killed several girls, chopping their bodies to pieces before throwing them in the backyard and in the drain.