The Nithari Case: A Practical Application of the ‘Rarest of the Rare’ Doctrine By Harshvardhan Korada From Amity University, Delhi
For almost two years, the rising reports of missing children went unnoticed in a no man's land called Nithari, a village in Noida. The frantic efforts of the anxious parents to find their children went in vain for the authorities were hardly concerned to investigate the matter in such a scarcely populated area. The saga continued and the number of missing children went up until two of the residents, in December 2006, claimed that they have seen the remains of the children in the drain behind a house, who had been missing since many days. The house was owned by a local businessman, Monider Singh Padher. Nithari residents claimed that the domestic help of Padher, Surender Koli, had something to do with the children that went missing in two years. S.C Mishra, the former President of the RWA and the two residents searched the tank drain near Padher's home, and one of the residents claimed to have found a decomposed hand, after which they called the police. Residents alleged that the police were corrupt. Moreover, it was believed that Padher used his wealth and power to influence the authorities to not take any action.
On December 30, 2006, the accused businessman and his aide were detained for investigation in connection with the case of a missing 20-year-old Pinky Sarkar. Koli, the domestic servant, confessed to having killed Pinky Sarkar after sexually assaulting her. Police claimed to have started digging up the nearby land area and found the skeletal remains of the children’s bodies. Further investigation by the authorities confirmed that the victims were raped, killed and the corpses were cannibalised. The incident shook the nation.
Between 2006 and 2017, the CBI special sessions court in Ghaziabad found Koli guilty of the crimes and was awarded eight death sentences for his involvement in the Nithari massacre. Pandher was initially acquitted by Allahabad court in 2009 but on 25th June, 2017, the CBI court in Ghaziabad awarded death sentence to him also. CBI special judge Pawan Kumar Tiwari said Pandher was a part of the conspiracy. "There is no scope for their rehabilitation or reform. This case falls under the rarest of the rare and both deserve the death penalty" he said while pronouncing the judgement.
In the famous Bachan Singh case of 1980, the Apex Court came up with the “rarest of rare” doctrine and since then, a life sentence is the rule and a death sentence is awarded in the most exceptional cases. The general test for 'rarest of the rare' is whether the collective conscience of the general public agrees to the extinction of the life of a person whose crime was so atrocious that it would disturb the order in the society. Moreover, another test for the rarest of the rare is whether there is any scope of reformation in the person who committed such crime. Pre-planned, brutal, cold-blooded and sordid nature of a crime, without giving any chance to the victim, are generally taken into account to decide whether a particular case falls within the parameters of “rarest of rare.” “Death penalty should be imposed when collective conscience of the society is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability of otherwise of retaining the death penalty,” said the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. The State of Punjab.[i]
The Nithari case is a practical application of the rarest of the rare doctrine. Certainly, the nature of crimes committed in this case is sordid, cold-blooded and atrocious. Moreover, the sheer number of times these offences are repeated is an indicator of the fact that there is no scope of reforming the guilty persons. The death sentences awarded in this case are justified for the case is truly one of its kind, wherein, the collective conscience of the society demands the extinction of the life of the involved persons.
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