Guest Post by Concerned Women, Womens’ Groups and Others against the Death Penalty Awarded to Surinder Koli
The President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, India.
2 December 2014
Subject: Execution of Surinder Koli Would be a Travesty of Justice:
Plea for Mercy from Women’s Groups, Lawyers, Academics, Students and Activists
As women who have been engaged in the struggles for women’s rights and justice, (and their allies) we appeal to you to commute Koli’s death sentence or at least to stay his execution till the completion of the other cases involving other Nithari victims in which he is an accused.
Surinder Koli, accused of murdering 18 women and children residing in Nithari village, NOIDA is facing imminent execution after his Review Petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 28 October 2014.
While there is no doubt that justice needs to be served in the gruesome Nithari case, that is precisely the reason why executing Koli would be an injustice – not only to him, but to the families whose children were slaughtered at Nithari.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Koli was actually the killer of the 18 women and children. Koli’s ‘confession’ – the only basis for his conviction – itself declares that it was obtained under torture and tutoring by the police.
The phenomenon of abnormally high disappearances of children from Nithari was present from 2003 – before Koli came to Pandher’s house as a domestic servant in 2004. And the phenomenon continues till date – even after Koli’s arrest and conviction.
The autopsy surgeon who examined bodies of the victims discounted cannibalism and suggested organ trade as an explanation for the murders.
The expert committee set up by the Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD), in its report, concluded that the police had fixed on Koli as the culprit, and had not investigated the possibility of organ trade as the motive for the offence.
The autopsy surgeon opined to the Committee that the bodies had been severed with surgical precision, whereas it was the CBI’s case that Koli had used an axe to hack the bodies to pieces.
The lawyers in this case have pointed out that the evidence of the autopsy surgeon was suppressed by the police. He was neither examined as a witness during the trial nor was his statement included in the chargesheet.
Another suspect, a doctor who was previously charged in a case of organ trade, was simply not probed by the police.
The committee also stressed the need to investigate whether some of Koli’s supposed victims were actually alive and trafficked elsewhere.
The DNA report also contradicts Koli’s ‘confession’. Koli supposedly confessed to killing 16 persons in his employer’s living room, but DNA evidence showed body parts of 19 victims. 11 of those bodies remain unidentified. Clearly, the story of those murders is full of loose ends, and Koli’s confession simply does not fit all the facts.
Koli’s death sentence has been upheld in the Rimpa Haldar case by the Supreme Court. But there is still no evidence that Rimpa Haldar is dead – in fact, there is a letter by her to her parents saying she eloped and is living with her husband in Nepal. There is no evidence that any attempt was made to establish if this was indeed a fact.
Why have these facts have been ignored by the courts and the police? Why the hurry to pin the crimes solely on Koli?
It is relevant to point out that Koli is Dalit, poor, and had access only to very poorly paid legal aid. These facts placed him in a very poor position to challenge the way in which the media and the police portrayed him as a cannibal and a depraved killer. Koli’s case underlines how in most cases it is the economically and socially vulnerable who tend to be awarded the death penalty, because they are in no position to influence public opinion.
The poverty of the accused, poor trial representation, lacunae in investigation, torture and tutoring and glaring gaps in forensic examination furnish strong grounds for this petition for mercy.
The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. As women staunchly opposed to the death penalty in principle, we stood firm against this form of retributive punishment, under the pretext of ‘justice’. Executions do not thwart crime. Many independently conducted surveys from across the globe have failed to establish a correlation between the two. On the contrary, an American survey reported by the New York Times in the year 2000 stated that in the last 20 years, homicide rates of states with the death penalty were 48 to 100 per cent higher than in those without the death penalty. Even the much-hailed Justice Verma Committee report was unequivocally against the death penalty, even in the rarest of the rare of rape cases.
Hence, we appeal to you to commute Koli’s death sentence, at least to begin with, stay his execution till the completion of the other cases involving other Nithari victims in which he is an accused.
- Uma Chakravarti, Feminist historian and former Professor, Delhi University
- Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association
- Vani Subramanian, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
- Pratiksha Baxi, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, New Delhi
- Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
- Rebecca John, Senior Advocate
- Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore
- Shraddha Chickerur, Social worker, New Delhi
- Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU
- Amrita Nandy, Ph.D Scholar, JNU
- Annie Raja, NFIW
- Jagmati Sangwan, AIDWA
- Malika Virdi, Maati, Munsiari, Uttarakhand
- Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Delhi
- Voices Against 377, New Delhi
- Lara Jesani, Advocate, Mumbai
- Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai
- Sujata Madhok, Journalist, New Delhi
- Pyoli Swatija, Advocate, New Delhi
- Rohini Hensman, Writer and independent scholar, Mumbai
- Gita Sen, Professor (Retd) Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore & Adjunct Professor, Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health
- Kavita Srivastava, PUCL Rajasthan, Jaipur
- Ratna A, Advocate, New Delhi.
- Kaveri Indira, WSS
- Nalini Visvanathan
- Mohan Rao, Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
- Rituparna Borah, Queer Feminist Activist. New Delhi
- Nandini Rao, Women’s Rights Activist, New Delhi
- Amrita Shodhan, SOAS, London
- Kiran Shaheen, Memoirist and Activist, New Delhi
- Gabriele Dietrich, Tamil Nadu
- Ashok Visvanathan, Chennai
- Jarjum Ete, President, Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Arunachal Pradesh
- Jhuma Sen, Delhi
- Karuna, DW
- Vahida Nainar, Women’s Research & Action Group
- Madhumita Dutta, Vettiver Collective, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Meera Narmada
- Jaya Vindhyala, Advocate, PUCL-Telangana, Hyderabad
- Sumi Krishna, Bangaluru
- Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM
- Ravi Hemadri, New Delhi
- Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
- Rosemary Dzuvichu, Nagaland University, Kohima
- Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development, New Dehi
- Rahul Roy, Filmmaker, New Delhi
- Surajit Sarkar, New Delhi
- Sujata Gothoskar, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai
- Pragna Patel – Director of Southall Black Sisters UK
- Svati Joshi, Ahmedabad
- Nimisha, Olakh, Vadodara
- Anchita Ghatak, Parichiti – A Society for Empowerment of Women, Calcutta
- Shahida Murtaza
- Arvind Narrain, Alternative Law Forum
- Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University
- Dyuti, Delhi
- Chinmayi Arun, Assistant Professor of Law, National Law University Delhi
- Jinee Lokaneeta, New York, NY.
- Action India, New Delhi
- Runu Chakraborty, Delhi
- Jyoti Punwani, Freelance Journalist, Mumbai
- Oishik Sircar, Melbourne Law School
- Saumya Uma, Women’s Research & Action Group, Mumbai
- Arunima, Associate Professor, Centre for Women’s Studies School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
- Neeraj Malik
- Javed Malick
- Ramlath Kavil
- Supriya Madangarli
- Geetanjali Gangoli
- Navtaj Purewal, Bijli UK
- Rahila Gupta, Southall Black Sisters, UK
- Santosh Dass, Anti-Caste Discrimination alliance (ACDA), UK
- Lalita Ramdas
- Shalini Gera, Advocate, Jagdalpur
- Prabha Nagraj, Tarshi
- Sumanta Roy, Imkaan, UK
- Amrit Wilson, Freedom Without Fear Platform, UK
- Vinay Gidwani, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
- S. Sahni, New Delhi
- Chayanika Shah, LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai
- Swayam, Kolkata
- Rukmini Sen, Ambedkar University Delhi
- Devaki Jain, New Delhi
- Rachana Johri, Ambedkar University Delhi
- Anuradha Banerji, New Delhi
- Madhu Bala, Activist
- Buta Singh, writer and activist
- Pamposh Dhar, writer
- Vinitha Mokshagundam
- Ashutosh, JNUSU President
- Chintu Kumari, JNUSU General Secretary
- Sucheta De, AISA
- S Seshan, Teacher
- N Jayaram, Sociologist, TISS, Mumbai
- Uma V Chandru, Bangalore
- Nisha Biswas
- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, advocate
- Shuddhabrata Sengupta, artist, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi