Constitutional Criminal

SC stays execution of Nithari killer Surinder Koli

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of Surinder Koli, convicted of Nithari killings, for a week until a fresh review petition challenging his death penalty is heard in an open courtroom by a Bench of three judges of the apex court.

The stay order was passed by a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and A.R. Dave at the former’s official residence in Delhi a few hours before Koli was scheduled to be hanged.

“We approached Justice Dattu at 1.30 am. There was a sitting of a Bench of Justices Dattu and Dave, which ordered that the execution be stayed for a period of a week until Koli’s fresh review be heard by a Bench comprising three judges of the Supreme Court in an open courtroom, where his counsel will be allowed to submit limited oral arguments on his behalf pleading for reversal of his reversal of death penalty,” Indira Jaising, senior advocate, told The Hindu on Monday.

The same Bench had dismissed an earlier review petition by Koli on July 25, saying there was no merit in it.

But a 4:1 majority judgment pronounced by a Constitution Bench led by CJI R.M. Lodha on September 3 has now led to this temporary reprieve for Koli.

The Constitution Bench verdict opened the door wide for death row convict to move the Supreme Court afresh. The Constitution Bench judgment authored by Justice Rohinton Nariman had held that “the fundamental right to life and the irreversibility of a death sentence mandate that oral hearing be given at the review stage in death sentence cases, as a just, fair and reasonable procedure under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution”.

It allowed fresh public hearing of review petitions, including pending ones and those dismissed. Counsel for the convict would be now given a 30-minute window to make oral arguments on behalf of the condemned man. The judgment had come on a batch of petition filed by eight men on death row who challenged the practice of Supreme Court judges hearing review petitions of death row convicts in their chambers and not in the public glare of open courtrooms.

Koli was found guilty of serial rapes and murders between 2005 and 2006 at his employer, businessman Moninder Singh Pandher’s house in Nithari. Remains of several missing children were found near the house.

Koli was sentenced to death in four cases and his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011, which described him as a serial killer who deserves no mercy.

Special Correspondent