HC verdict justice for Talwar couple, but not for Aarushi and Hemraj

The case was based more on impressions and prejudices than hard, corroborated facts.

 |  6-minute read |   12-10-2017
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On October 12, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the dentist couple accused of killing their daughter Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj Banjade in 2008. The judges said that the CBI could not provide clinching evidence and the chain of evidence they showcased was inconclusive, thereby giving the Talwars the "benefit of doubt".

While it is still unclear if the CBI will appeal against the verdict, the Talwars will stay out of jail even if their acquittal is challenged.

The judgement marks the end of a nine-year-long battle for the Talwars, who had maintained that the police made them scapegoats to cover up for a shoddy and botched investigation, which all along seemed based more on impressions and theories than hard, corroborated facts.

From the moment the Aarushi murder case broke on a May morning in 2008, it had the nation gripped, and the media more than obliged. The Noida Sector 20 police first assumed the murderer was the domestic help, Hemraj. This theory had to be abandoned after Hemraj, too, was found dead, on the terrace of the Talwars' house.

A new narrative then took shape - the teenager was in an "inappropriate' relationship with the servant, and the father, finding them in an "objectionable position", had killed both. An upwardly mobile middle-class family torn apart supposedly by blood and stained honour. The Talwars were arrested - in media glare.

 

As endless hours on prime-time television were spent discussing the case over and over again, the question seemed to shift from "Who killed Aarushi and Hemraj?" to whether you believed the Talwars were innocent.

While many decried a couple who could have killed their own daughter - in the same breath moralising about young girls bringing shame on the family - rallies were held in the Talwars' support.

The then Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayawati, handed over the probe to the CBI.

Facts in the case were shaky- it took a year to find Aarushi's mobile phone, the scalpel Rajesh supposedly used to kill her was never found - but the theories became wilder, from allegations that Rajesh was having an extramarital affair, the knowledge of which had pushed Aarushi closer to Hemraj, to claims that the couple were dentists to important politicians, who were "helping them out".

Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had maintained that the police made them scapegoats for a shoddy and botched investigation. Photo: India Today Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had maintained that the police made them scapegoats for a shoddy and botched investigation. Photo: India Today

With the CBI probe, another theory emerged - that the Talwars were innocent, and Aarushi had been killed by three friends of Hemraj - Krishna, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal. The three, consuming drinks in the flat, had tried to sexually assault Aarushi, Hemraj tried to stop them, and hence the trio killed them.

Krishna was a compounder, while the other two were domestic helps in the area.

Krishna was arrested, and under a narco-analysis test, "confessed" to the murders. Blood-stained kukri and pillow case were found in his house. However, in December 2010, the CBI submitted a closure report. It said the three servants were not to blame and Rajesh Talwar was the prime suspect. But the agency did not charge him due to lack of evidence.

Here, the court took over. It said the case could not be closed, and ordered that the Talwars be tried on existing proof. The trial ultimately led to the conviction of the couple in 2013, but questions on the investigation and the trial itself refused to go away.

Crime scene tampered with

The Noida police faced serious flak for allowing the murder scene to be interfered with, which possibly led to the loss of valuable DNA evidence. While the walls of Aarushi's room had blood stains, the toys on her bed, close to the wall, did not. Her bedsheet was found wet, suggesting it had been washed.

Domestic help's statement

The first outsider to hear of Aarushi's murder was their domestic help Bharti Mandal, who reached the Talwars' house around 6am on the morning after the murder. Bharti first said the door was locked from outside, but in court changed the statement, saying it was "explained to her" to say that the door was closed from inside. The court did not think this tutoring of a witness inappropriate.

Murder weapons

The prosecution claimed that Rajesh used a scalpel and a golf club for the murders. While the scalpel was never found, the club produced in court was "not the offence weapon".

Fudgy forensic reports

There were reports that Aarushi's vaginal swabs were switched, leading to different reports about her. A report from the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnosis (CDFD) had claimed that a pillow case found in Krishna's room had Hemraj's blood stains on it. The lab in 2011 said Krishna's name was introduced as a "typographical error".

Judgement not impartial?

Journalist Avirook Sen, who covered the case extensively as a reporter, said in a book he later wrote that the investigation and the court twisted the available evidence to fit the pre-decided narrative of honour killing.

According to a report in The Indian Express, Sen claims he interviewed Ashutosh, the son of Additional Sessions Judge Shyam Lal, who "let slip that he helped his father write the judgement and that it took "more than one month". The judgement was pronounced on November 25 and the final arguments began on October 24. "Judge Shyam Lal wasn't waiting for them to persuade him, he had made up his mind. The guilty verdict was already being written," Sen wrote in the book.

While for now, the Talwars' ordeal seems to be over, the question of who killed Aarushi is yet to be answered. So are the questions that the high-profile case raised on our criminal justice system.

Also read: Why Aarushi Talwar double murder case still raises more questions than answers

 

Writer

Yashee Yashee @yasheesingh

Senior sub editor

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