THE INFAMOUS 2006 Nithari case—in which two men, Surinder Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher, who were thought to be serial killers of children were acquitted on October 16—tells us that India is a place where the law is not a function of justice but necessity. This is not because the two were let free, but because they might well be innocent. It again affirms that the police don’t have much clue about investigation techniques beyond tracing mobile phone records or forcing confessions. In this case, it was the latter, about the only evidence they could show in court.
Koli was the servant in Pandher’s house behind which remains of the children were found in a drain. As the Allahabad High Court judgment said: “The manner in which confession is recorded after 60 days of police remand without any medical examination of accused; providing of legal aid; overlooking specific allegation of torture in the confession itself; failure to comply with the requirement of Section 164 Cr.P.C. is shocking to say the least…It appears to us that the investigation opted for the easy course of implicating a poor servant of the house by demonizing him, without taking due care of probing more serious aspects of possible involvement of organized activity of organ trading.”
You might even excuse such behaviour if it was an ordinary crime but to pick the easiest person around when children have been killed is to show a level of callousness as inhuman as the killer’s. The standard template is this: there is public pressure because of the crime’s nature, the elected politicians pressure the IPS officers, the IPS officers pressure the investigation officers, who instead of finding the criminal, make an arrest so that no one is feeling the pressure anymore. It is not the first time this has happened in cases involving serial killers. Roughly the same time as the Nithari killings, a serial killer was said to be on the loose in Mumbai leaving a beer bottle next to the homosexuals he murdered. The police quickly arrested one Ravindra Kantrole, who with his glaring eyes and long beard, looked the part. The case was thrown away by the courts, just as this one, with disdain at the way investigation was botched up.
The police know they can get away with it because in gruesome sensational crimes, the public and media are unquestioningly on their side. Even the lower courts don’t go against them. It is at the higher judiciary that the fictions are called to account but by then so much time has passed that no one gets punished. Who would do the punishment anyway when the entire system is a party to the charade? And yet, at the end of all of it, there are still all the dead who deserve answers. If it was not Koli and Pandher, then all the children dismembered and buried are ghosts without justice. If it can happen in a such a case, then why should it be any different for most crimes in India?