On Thursday, the CBI was forced to admit that it had created the creepy e-mail id ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for official communication with the Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, accused in the NOIDA double murder. Till then, it had unblinkingly denied this fact. On Friday, in response to a clarification sought by this writer on whether the address was still being used, the agency lied once again.
The chief information officer of the CBI, Dharini Mishra said via an sms that the address was used only “during investigation”. This is false. Documents available with the Mirror demonstrate that the CBI, under the alias ‘Hemraj’, was writing to the accused as recently as May 18 this year.
The investigation into the Aarushi-Hemraj case ended in December 2010, when the CBI submitted its closure report. In fact, the trial was in progress in Ghaziabad when the May 18 e-mail arrived in defence advocate Manoj Sisodia’s inbox.
The reason for creating the id is fairly obvious: it was one way of applying psychological pressure on people the agency presumed were guilty. The address was spooky. Hemraj was the Talwars’ servant; their daughter Aarushi and he were murdered in the couple’s Jalvayuvihar flat; hence ‘email@example.com’. The CBI has not responded to a query on whether there have been other cases where such addresses have been created.
Why the agency persisted with the address—even a year after denying its existence—hasn’t been properly explained despite repeated inquiries. The best the CBI has come up with is that it had “special/specific reasons”.
The only logical explanation is that the agency did it because it believed it could—and that nobody would ask any questions. So it went further and further: it wrote not just to Rajesh and Nupur Talwar from the address, but also to their friends and lawyers. It submitted documents bearing the id to courts, even carried out court directives using it.
Sisodia says he received his ‘Hemraj’ e-mail, after the defence had filed an application in the trial court seeking some documents. The court directed the CBI to provide the documents, and a subordinate of the investigating officer A.G.L. Kaul, a frequent user of ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, sent Sisodia a soft copy from that address.
“I needed the documents urgently and they could have come only from the CBI, so I did not bother with the address”, says Sisodia. Besides, the defence had gotten fairly used to Hemraj writing to them.
The CBI’s statement on Thursday has far reaching implications. It’s CIO said: “Normally, official e-mail id is used. But in rare cases/occasion/any specific reason, personal ID/any other e-mail ID can be used”. This pretty much covers all possible circumstances. It also means that anyone who knows a case number and has access to the internet can create an id and write e-mails on behalf of the CBI and leave the recipient to ponder their provenance.
This opens up endless possibilities for mischief from pranksters outside the CBI and officers within it. For instance, Laloo Prasad Yadav could conceivably receive official summons from an id such as ‘email@example.com'. Should a recipient not respond, he or she could then be labeled ‘unco-operative’.
If the CIO’s statement is a succinct version of guidelines for officers communicating on the CBI’s behalf, then, as in the Aarushi murder, anything goes. So is there a policy on such matters? Or is it perpetually open season?More on Aarushi trial:
Complete Coverage - Aarushi Trial Special
Despite denials, meet CBI officer Kaul alias Hemraj
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
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