Aarushi trial: Defence pooh-poohs testimony on Internet use

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 18:08 hrs

Was someone on the internet in the flat of Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar on the night their daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj were murdered? The CBI has said there was - making the case that this showed the accused couple were responsible for the gruesome happenings in their flat on the night of 15-16 May 2008.

But the evidence on record, and the cross-examination of witnesses in connection with the internet logs, establishes only two things clearly. First, that the investigation was beyond shoddy. And second, that the conclusions drawn from available evidence are vague and do not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

The prosecution witness being cross-examined on Thursday was Bhupinder Singh Avasya, a scientist working for Computer Emergency Response Team, India (CERT-In), a government agency that operates out of the same complex which houses the CBI’s headquarters in Delhi.

Avasya had testified that the “stop-start” activity the Talwars’ connection appeared to record through the night of the murders, was due to “users” switching it on and off.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir, the court heard the expert admit that there could have been at least eight other causes for this kind of activity. He added that he could have ascertained the exact cause only if he had access to the logs of the router, and a comprehensive log from the ISP (internet service provider).

As it happened, the router - the device that contained the truth about whether someone switched it on and off through that night - was never seized by the investigators. As for the ISP logs, Avasya had to rely on a truncated version provided to CERT-In by the CBI: it didn’t list the critical column on causes of termination of sessions.

Avasya came into the picture two months after the CERT-In director, Anil Sagar, had given the CBI his opinion on the logs. In September 2010, Sagar had said that no definite conclusions could be drawn on the basis of information provided. His subordinate, Avasya, was then approached to give a statement - he stood by his boss’s opinion, but speculated that physical switching on and off was the likely reason for the activity.

On Thursday, he admitted that this might have been only one of several causes. The defence also challenged Avasya’s authority as an expert. Did logs of internet sessions always begin with a “start” - like a car engine - and end with a “stop”, Mir asked him. Avasya said they did.

And then he was shown records where numerous sessions seemed to have started, but not ended; and sessions that began with “stop”. Avasya was at a loss to explain why. Adding one more item to the list of “inexplicables” in the case.

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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 avirook@gmail.com

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