Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 08:44 UK

India murder sentence overturned

Moninder Singh Pandher
The Pandher case has raised questions about police handling

An appeal court in India has overturned the death sentence of a businessman who was convicted for murdering a girl in a case dubbed "the house of horrors".

The Allahabad High Court said it found no evidence to link Moninder Singh Pandher to the murder case of 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar.

But the court upheld the death sentence of the second accused, Mr Pandher's servant Surinder Koli.

The pair were arrested in 2007 after body parts were found near their home.

The duo were charged with murder, rape and abduction - the case involved 19 deaths and most of the dead were children. Mr Pandher and Mr Koli remain in custody as proceedings in these cases continue.

In February 2009, a trial court found them guilty of Rimpa Haldar's murder and sentenced them to death.

'No evidence'

"The high court has confirmed the death sentence awarded to Surinder Koli and since there was no evidence against Pandher, he has been acquitted only in the Rimpa Haldar case," news agency Reuters quoted Mr Jaffri as saying.

Speaking to reporters on Friday in the northern city of Allahabad, Mr Pandher's lawyer NL Jaffri said that his client was acquitted in the Haldar case due to a lack of evidence.

"Other cases are pending before the court," he said.

Police carry a bag containing remains of children
The grisly crime shook the country

The killings in Noida, a Delhi suburb, shocked the country and many accused the police of negligence.

Local residents said that police failed to act over the abductions and murders because many of those reported missing came from poor families.

The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says Mr Pandher's acquittal is bound to be criticised by the parents of the missing children who had earlier accused the police and investigative agencies of being "soft" on the businessman.

Residents said as many as 40 children disappeared in the area over two years before the crime came to light in December 2006.

The remains of the children were found hidden in bags.

The killings horrified people in India and the businessman's home was dubbed the "house of horrors".

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the case amid mounting accusations that local police had done nothing.

The accused were questioned by CBI officials and were also put through lie detector tests.

Six Noida policemen were sacked for alleged incompetence. Three senior officers were also suspended.

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