The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the death sentence awarded to Surinder Koli, key accused in the Nithari serial killings case and the domestic help of businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, in whose house in Noida near Delhi the rape and murder of young girls and women were committed.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.S. Chauhan while staying the death sentence, sought the response from the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Uttar Pradesh government on Koli’s petition challenging his conviction.

Koli was convicted and sentenced to death by a special CBI court on February 13, 2009 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, one of the Nithari victims, in 2007. The court had slapped death sentence on both Koli and Pandher. However, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Pandher and confirmed the death sentence of Koli on September 11, 2009. Koli moved the Supreme Court against this judgment.

In his appeal, Koli said the impugned judgment was not sustainable as it was without material evidence on record.

He said the High Court had erred in not appreciating the fact that his position was better than the acquitted co-accused person.

The house where the crime was committed was that of the co-accused and the house owner was responsible for his servants. In these circumstances, the benefit of doubt ought to have been given to him also.

Koli submitted that it was the settled principle of the criminal justice system that confession statement made before the police under duress was not admissible evidence and conviction based on such confession could not sustained.

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