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Businessman in India's 'house of horrors' case has rape, murder convictions overturned

Friday, September 11, 2009

HAVE YOUR SAY
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Did he know what was happening, or is this verdict the right one?

A businessman implicated in a serial murder case in India which has been dubbed the "house of horrors" has been cleared on appeal of abducting, raping, and murdering fourteen-year-old Rimpa Haldar. He had been sentenced to death along with his servant.

Cquote1.svg many may find it unbelievable that the owner of the house was not aware of what was going on Cquote2.svg

—Senior police officer

The Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh ruled that there was no evidence to link Moninder Singh Pandher to the girl's remains, which were among those of nineteen young women and girls recovered from bags near his house. Servant Surinder Koli's conviction was upheld as was his sentence. Both still have eighteen more cases yet to go before the courts and remain imprisoned.

The police handling of the case has sparked controversy. Some local residents claimed that up to forty abductions had been reported to the police but they had failed to act because of the poor backgrounds the girls came from. Police have also been accused of incompetence, with three officers suspended and at least three more sacked over these allegations.

Cquote1.svg If his capital punishment would have been there, justice would have been defeated Cquote2.svg

—Pandher's lawyer R.S. Sodhi

Haldar's family intend to appeal, according to their lawyer. "The CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] had made this case so hollow, so bad, that no evidence was collected," said lawyer Khalid Khan. Victims' families had previously accused the authorities of soft treatment of the accused businessman. The Central Bureau of Investigation has taken over the case from police on the basis of the controversy.

Pandher was represented by former Chief Justice of New Delhi R.S. Sodhi, who pointed out that the defendant had been away to Australia on a business trip at the time of Haldar's abduction, rape and murder. "This is one case where the public wanted Pandher's blood and flesh. And for me it was the biggest challenge to get him out of this case. If his capital punishment would have been there, justice would have been defeated," he told reporters.

Xinhua quoted an anonymous senior police officer as saying that "Though the CBI informed the court that Pandher was in Australia when Halder was murdered, many may find it unbelievable that the owner of the house was not aware of what was going on in his premises." He also refused to speculate further, defering to an appeal to a higher court.

Sources