The CBI created a special e-mail address in order to communicate with Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, accused in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case.
The address was ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, under the user-name ‘Hemraj Singh’.
Hemraj, the Talwars’ Nepali servant lived in the servant’s room of their Jalvayuvihar flat. He was killed on the same night as Rajesh and Nupur’s daughter Aarushi, but his rotting body was discovered only a day later from the flat’s terrace. The CBI claims the Talwars prevented the police from accessing the terrace on the first day so that suspicion shifted away from them and on to Hemraj who was ‘missing’.
All e-mails to and from ‘email@example.com’ were official.
Rajesh Talwar would receive e-mailed summons from this address. When he was asked for his consent to undergo narco-analysis, for instance, ‘Hemraj Singh’ wrote him a mail on the CBI’s behalf. This ‘Hemraj Singh’ is a real, living, person. His name is A.G.L. Kaul, CBI additional SP, the investigating officer in the Aarushi-Hemraj case.
As official conduct, the creation of this creepy alias was indefensible. As a pressure tactic against suspects who were expected to respond to mails purportedly coming from the ‘person’ they were supposed to have killed, it was crude. Naturally, it necessitated a cover-up. This cover-up is best described as illiterate, and eventually self-incriminating.
The CBI has submitted documents in the Supreme Court as well as the trial court in Ghaziabad that clearly demonstrate that Kaul was writing regularly to the Talwars as ‘Hemraj Singh’ on official matters.
The agency has so far denied that it had anything to do with these e-mails and maintained that the Talwars have always been summoned through official process. The CBI got away with this lie until it was exposed by its own documents this year.
The issue of the ‘Hemraj’ e-mails first appeared in the Indian Express (May 1, 2011). The paper reported that the mails were a prank, according to the agency. The CBI spokesperson, Dharini Mishra went on record to say: “Our investigation officer has told us that no such mail has been sent by the CBI.” This officer, presumably, would be Kaul.
Ironically, the spokesperson was also asked whether the CBI would investigate who was posing as Kaul. To which she replied that the agency didn’t take such matters up “suo motu”. This is where the matter rested.
The Express report had a CBI denial built into it because of an error. The e-mail address it cited was ‘firstname.lastname@example.org. The mails in question were sent from ‘email@example.com’. The extra .com left room for a tenuous denial.
But what is tenuous breaks soon enough. In documents it submitted to the Supreme Court in April this year, the CBI included a printout of a December 2009 e-mail regarding the Talwars’ consent for narco tests sent to Rajesh Talwar. Clearly printed, at the top of the page, is the source: ‘hemraj singh .’
Rajesh Talwar’s reply is addressed to “Mr Kaul.”
This isn’t the only place where ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ makes an appearance. Court documents show the address seems to have been created specifically for the Talwars and those perceived to be on their side. Ajay Chadha, a family friend, also received at least one mail from Hemraj/Kaul.
This 31 May 2010 e-mail is an enquiry on the crucial matter of the recovery of the golf clubs from the Talwars Jalvayuvihar flat. (A golf club is the alleged murder weapon.) The CBI relies upon this document in the trial and has submitted it to the special court in Ghaziabad. The sender, once again, is ‘Hemraj Singh’.
The subject of the mail is ‘details regarding golf sticks’. Chadha’s reply begins: “Respected Shri Kaul ji”.
The CBI has said official process was followed, but no e-mail communication with the Talwars that it has placed on record comes from anyone except this ‘Hemraj Singh’.
In the case of the Talwars’ consent for narco analysis, for instance, the Hemraj/Kaul mail is used to make the CBI case in the Supreme Court. The Talwars had said they willingly agreed to the tests while pleading that the case be reviewed. The CBI countered by saying that the accused agreed only “conditionally”. It referred to the mail by Rajesh Talwar addressed to Hemraj/Kaul in which the dentist said he was giving his consent to the tests in the “interest of justice” provided there was an assurance that the procedure was not hazardous to his health.
It may not appear that way, but CBI officers do have official mail addresses. ‘Hemraj’ did not write to managers at Airtel or Vodafone requesting cellphone details relevant to the Aarushi investigation. According to records, such mails were sent using addresses ending with @cbi.gov.in.
The Hemraj/Kaul e-mail address is now defunct. But its creation, use, and subsequent denials about its existence, speak to an attitude among the constabulary that smacks of a dependence on insinuation, a disregard for process and a delusion that they can get away with lies.
The CBI has effectively told the Supreme Court that the ‘Hemraj’ sending mails was really officer Kaul. It has done so in writing. If the criminals the agency pursues were this forthcoming with their admissions, we might not even need an elite force.
The Chief Information Officer, CBI Dharini Mishra, exchanged telephone calls, smses and e-mails with this writer several times between 1.50 pm and 3.00 pm on 9 August. At first she denied anybody in the CBI could ever have sent the ‘hemraj’ e-mails. In the space of approximately an hour, however, she changed her statement several times, arriving at a final version in an e-mail.
The transcripts of the conversations, smses and e-mail are reproduced below
Call at 1.50 pm 9 aug, on Ms Mishra’s landline -
Avirook Sen: What is the standard procedure while sending summons via e-mail?
Dharini Mishra, CBI spokesperson: They are sent from the official ids that end with @cbi.gov.in. In case there are network problems, officers might sometimes use their personal e-mails, but these normally bear the name of the officer. In no event will they use an obscure e-mail address.
Sen: The Talwars received summons and other queries from an e-mail id that read ‘email@example.com’. You denied this in an Express story from May 2011.
Mishra: You are writing about the Aarushi case? These mails were not sent by the CBI. This is not possible.
Sen: Do you stand by that denial?
Mishra: Yes, yes.
Sen: There are documents in court that CBI has submitted that contain the address…
Mishra: What?? Okay give me 10 minutes, I will call you back. If I don’t call back, then you can say I stand by my earlier denial.
Call at 2.13 pm received from the same number -
Mishra: Ok, I have spoken to the officers they say they have used this email id for some time due to some very special reason.
Sen: You said you had spoken to the officers when you last issued a denial, does that mean that denial was incorrect..
Mishra: You are trying to make a story out of nothing…
Sen: Can you tell me what ‘special reasons’ there might have been?
Mishra: That we cannot disclose.
Sen: I will quote this conversation in its entirety…
Mishra: You cannot do that! You are just making a big story out of nothing. Please listen to me. You did not tell me you were going to quote me. You started by asking a general question, but then you started asking specifics… I knew there was something fishy.
Sen: I have been very fair. I have told you what story I am working on and what documents I am relying on. These are CBI documents. I did not invent them.
Mishra: You can only quote me on what I say exactly. I am going to write to the Mirror. I will send you an SMS and then an e-mail. That is all you can quote me on. Do not try to make a big story out of this.
SMSes exchanged between the writer and Ms Mishra between 2.38 pm and 2.42 pm.
Mishra: Regarding your query in the Aarushi case – the matter is sub judice therefore CBI will not comment on court proceedings, evidence in court etc.
Sen: Is this your final statement? Tks.
Mishra: Regarding your query about issuance of summons by e-mail – the same is normally done by official e-mail. In rare occasions, personal or other e-mail ID can be used.
Mishra: I’ve sent two sms es and being followed up by e-mail also. Rgds Dharini Mishra, CIO, CBI.
Text of e-mail from Ms Mishra -
CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Subject: Query from journalist.
This is in connection with the telephonic discussion with Shri Avirook Sen. CBI’s responses to the queries are as follows:-
i) The Arushi case is sub-judice. The case is under trial, therefore, CBI will not comment on Court proceedings, evidence produced in the Court etc.
ii) Regarding your query on whether accused / witness can be summoned through email. Yes, CBI can summon a witness/accused by e-mail also. Normally, official e-mail ID is used. But in rare cases/occasion/any specific reason, personal ID/any other e-mail lD can be used.
*Post Script: A little over two hours after the above exchange PTI carried an intriguing report. For reasons best known to the CBI, it admitted to have created an e-mail id in Hemraj's name, with which it communicated with the Talwars, a fact that it had denied in the past. This was done for special reasons, said the CBI. The agency did not explain what these reasons were, or why the admission was being made at this time.
The story - CBI admits creating email ID in the name of Hemraj
More on Aarushi trial:
Complete Coverage - Aarushi Trial Special
The mystery of the bloody pillow cover
The forensic expert's puzzling testimony
Why the Aarushi trial is like a game of chess
Traces of blood, lots of rain, no power
Doctor only willing to take 'unsigned' responsibility
Currently a visiting fellow at INSEAD, France, Avirook Sen has been a journalist and writer for over 20 years. A former resident editor of Hindustan Times (Mumbai) and editor of Mid-Day, he has written with passion and insight on subjects as varied as sport and terrorism for top publications across the world. His first book, Looking for America, was published in 2010 to enthusiastic reviews. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org