Aarushi trial: A 'typo' gives Talwars reason to question CBI's integrity

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2012 12:09 hrs

​The one piece of evidence that could turn the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial remained the focus of the court where the teenager’s parents are being tried for her and their servants’ murder. At issue was the veracity of documents that clearly showed the involvement of the Talwars’ employee Krishna—once a suspect, but let off because the CBI did not charge him within 90 days of his arrest.

A forensic report from late 2008, a few months after Krishna had been released, said there were traces of Hemraj’s blood on Krishna’s pillow cover. The report came from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, (CDFD) Hyderabad. It went first to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, (CFLS) New Delhi, and then on to the CBI. No one at either organization noticed the only piece of direct forensic evidence implicating someone that has come to light in the case. It was only when the Talwars were given access to the documents more than two years later that they pointed this fact out.

By then, however, they had been summoned as the accused. In a matter of one week in March 2011, a curious, critical twist came into play. It was a typo, said the CBI. Hemraj’s blood was not on Krishna’s pillow cover. The CDFD findings pertaining to Hemraj’s and Krishna’s bedding were accidentally swapped by some clerk typing the report.

The CBI sought, and got, a clarification from India’s best known forensic lab that this had indeed happened. The defence now wants to know how. It has prayed to the trial court to have all documents pertaining to the correction/clarification placed on record. Along with those relating to the actual processes followed during tests.

It is evident that the CBI wrote a letter to the CDFD asking them to clarify exactly, and only, whether there was a typo in this specific instance. There was no mention of other parts of the report in the letter the investigating agency sent. It is not clear how the CDFD was able to ascertain its typists had indeed made a mistake—the actual samples were not with the lab, so there was no question of retesting. Neither did the lab address the larger issue that arose out of this: was this the only typo? Could there have been other critical clerical errors that might prove to be the difference between innocence and guilt, life and death?

The prosecution is in no mood to supply the documents that get to the root of the “error”. But the defence has argued that not only can it not examine the CDFD forensic scientists appearing as prosecution witnesses effectively if it does not have all the information on record, these papers also have implications for the cross examination of the investigating officers of the CBI who dealt with the “swap”.

The Talwars’ application calls the integrity of both the CBI and the CDFD into question, so the importance of the records can hardly be overstated. The trial judge will decide on Saturday whether or not to ask the prosecution to place the papers before the court.

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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 avirook@gmail.com

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