Allahabad: Nithari killer Surinder Koli's death sentence has been commuted to life in jail by the Allahabad High Court in response to a plea by a civil rights organisation.
The People's Union for Democratic Rights, or PUDR, contended that there had been an inordinate delay of over three years in deciding Koli's mercy petition -- first by the Governor and then the President, both of whom had rejected the plea.
The High Court upheld the right body's contention that Koli's execution will be "unconstitutional in view of the inordinate delay".
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that a death sentence can be commuted to life because of a long delay in a decision on a convict's mercy plea.
Following the court's order, Yug Chaudhary, PUDR's lawyer, said, "There was no explanation for the delay. It violated the prisoners' right (to life granted in the Constitution). The prisoner was kept in solidarity confinement".
The order, however, will have no bearing in the other Nithari cases that Koli faces, which are currently under trial.
Koli, 42, is a self-confessed cannibal found guilty 10 years ago of murdering young women and children at a bungalow near Delhi. He had been awarded the death sentence in 2011 for the murder of Rimpa Haldar.
He was to be hanged last year in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, the his execution was suspended twice by the Supreme Court.
Koli had confessed to having sex with his dead victims and also eating some of their body parts.
He worked at the home of Moninder Singh Pandher in the area of Nithari in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi where as many as 19 girls are feared to have been raped and killed. He was sentenced to hang for murdering 14-year-old Rimpa Halder in 2005.
He has already been convicted of five cases of murder, rape and cannibalism while 14 more cases are still pending.
Though his employer Moninder Singh Pandher was also charged with first degree murder in the same case, he was acquitted in 2009. Mr Pandher was released from jail last year.