As you approach Ghaziabad from Delhi, you pass Hindon. There’s an airbase there, and, possibly, north India’s most aromatic rubbish dump. You can see it from miles off, because there’s always a whirl of hawks and vultures above it.
On some days that circling flock multiplies manifold: the days when fresh carrion arrives. A 12-line Supreme Court order isn’t ‘fresh carrion’, but the flock of journalists who cover the Aarushi-Hemraj trial tore into just like those swooping circling birds over Hindon — except that they made a lot more noise.
News channels screamed that the Supreme Court had thrown the Talwars’ last, desperate bid to escape a conviction, and newspapers are likely to be no different.
Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had approached the Supreme Court with a petition seeking a direction to the trial court to call upon 13 witnesses who they felt were crucial to their defence, but whom the prosecution had no intention of calling.
The Talwars did this because the trial judge dismissed their plea in Ghaziabad, and the Allahabad High Court is yet to take up petitions challenging the lower court’s orders that they have filed more than six months ago. Enough time to consign them to irrelevance: the trial court record has gone well past their expiry date.
Prosecution witnesses could have been challenged or confronted had Allahabad spared time for those petitions, but now the witnesses have come and gone — their cross-examinations are over.
Monday’s Supreme Court order said that the court was “not inclined” to entertain the Talwars’ petition. It granted them the liberty to approach the Allahabad High Court. Additionally, it said: “In case the matter is mentioned for being taken up out of turn, we request the High Court to consider it sympathetically.”
The Supreme Court wasn’t talking about the merit of the Talwar’s petition — to the extent whether the additional witnesses be called or not. It followed, as it usually does, the calibrated procedure of the justice system. The High Court had to be the Talwars’ first court of appeal, it said. And then it addressed a reality: the Allahabad High Court is notorious for its backlog.
The Supreme Court weighed this against the urgency of the Talwars’ petition and made a “request”. The Supreme Court does not make requests — every word that emerges from it is, for all practical purposes directive.
The trial court in Ghaziabad is proceeding at the pace it is because the Supreme Court used the word ‘expeditiously’ in an earlier order while granting Nupur Talwar bail. If anything, the Talwars can expect far better treatment in Allahabad post the “request”.
But for some reason, the order had the whiff of the walking dead to the vultures. The press (but not the cameras) was allowed into the Ghaziabad court freely for the first time, as prosecution counsel R.K. Saini broke into the language of the street.
The Talwars were asking for leave to approach the Allahabad High Court and Saini spat out his objection: ‘Kabhi yeh bhai ko bhejte hain, to kabhi baap ko…!”
Rajesh Talwar’s father passed away a decade ago. And earlier Supreme Court observations on the case did have a few lines about maintaining the ‘majesty of the court’ at all times. The Talwars will file an application pointing out the unseemly nature of Saini’s remarks. But it was quality vulture food.