The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of Surinder Koli to life imprisonment in the case relating to the serial Nithari killings in Noida, a few kilometres away from the national capital.
The HC had earlier stayed his execution till November 25 on a Public Interest Litigation of the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR).
The two-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yashwant Chandrachud and Justice PKS Baghel based their verdict on the "assimilation" of four main reasons.
While commuting Koli's death sentence into life sentence, the HC highlighted the delay of 3 and half years in disposal of his mercy petition by the Uttar Pradesh Governor and the President and termed it "unnecessary and unreasonable."
Siddharth, one of the three layers representing PUDR and Koli told The Hindu that the HC also highlighted the "misapplication" of rules by the State of Uttar Pradesh in considering Koli's mercy petition.
"Mercy petition can be written by both kind of convicts who have been given capital punishment and also those who have been given punishment other than death sentence," he added.
Uttar Pradesh, it noted, applied rules which were meant for non-death convicts while considering the mercy petition of Koli who was a death row convict.
The court in its order held that the manner in which execution warrant for Koli was issued by the special CBI court of Ghaziabad was in "violation" of Koli's "right to due process".
The court also noted that Koli was kept in solitary confinement since the beginning of his conviction which is illegal under the law.
There were two petitions-- one was the petition by the PUDR and another was the petition by Koli himself, which were tagged into one. Young Mohit Chaudhary, Siddharth and Ragini were the joint lawyers representing the PUDR and Koli.
The NGO had approached the HC after the Supreme Court had, in October last year, rejected Koli's plea to recall the death sentence awarded to him by a special CBI court in February 2009.
The PUDR had petitioned the HC with the plea that Koli deserved mercy on humanitarian grounds as he had to go through "mental torment" for more than five years when he languished in jail awaiting verdicts in his appeals and mercy petitions.
Koli, who worked as the domestic servant of the Noida-based businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, was awarded death sentence for the murder of a 14-year-old girl, Rimpa Haldar.
Both were awarded death sentence in the murder case but Pandher was later acquitted by the Allahabad HC. Pandher was later released on bail. Koli's death sentence was upheld by the Allahabad HC and later, the Supreme Court.
Mercy petition rejected
His mercy petition was rejected by the President of India. After that, the trial court had issued a death warrant on September 2 last year fixing the date of execution as September 12. But his hanging was stayed in the last minute by the Apex Court which decided to hear his right to recall the death sentence in an open court.
But the SC also rejected the petition on October 28 clearing the way for his execution after which the PUDR approached the Allahabad HC through a PIL.
The Nithari killings came to light in December 2006 when several families in Nithari village, close to Pandher's house in Noida, complained to the police about their children, especially minor girls, going missing.