Aarushi trial: Dhyan Nahin Hai, sings UP cop

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 13, 2012 13:13 hrs

Constable Chunnilal Gautam, a man with light eyes that constantly smile, and the sort of respectable portliness that you might associate with a regular patron of one of Gahziabad's decent Vaishno Dhabas, was the prosecution's only witness on June 21 in the trial of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar.

Chunnilal tooked the first photographs of the crimes scene and collected fingerprints on the morning after Aarushi Talwar's murder. 

His photographs, the evidence he collected, and his statement before the trial court, play a key role in building the prosecution’s circumstantial case against the dentist couple. 

The CBI has relied heavily on this in arguing that the crime scene was "dressed up" by the Talwars, implying that they must therefore be guilty.

Chunnilal's cross-examination by defence lawyers was lengthy, and somewhat frustrating. It had the pooch ke batate hain quality of a current telecom commercial. Almost every question the defence asked of him was met by a Dhyaan nahin hai.

The questions stem from the fact that on 2 July 2008, about a month and a half after Aarushi and the Talwars' Nepali servant were murdered, the first CBI team that investigated the case recorded a rather bland statement by the police photographer.

Subsequently, however, this statement was 'improved' when a second CBI team recorded what Chunnilal had to say on 29 March 2010. This new version - one that apparently implicates the Talwars - is what Chunnilal has gone on record with at the trial.

In 2008, Chunnilal made no mention of blood stains on the bottle of Ballantine's that sat on the Talwars' table, from which he obtained fingerprints. The CBI's closure report, relying on a second interview says there were traces of the blood of the victims.

The detail that the stuffed toy on Aarushi's bed had no blood on it was also added in the later version: the implication being that it was placed on the scene after the crime.

Did Chunnilal recall what he did not say in his first statement, or what he added in his second? His answer was consistently, "Dhyan nahin hai", a phrase that appears at least half a dozen times in the court record of his cross-examination. The only time the defence got a definite answer out of him was when he was asked whether the CBI pressured him to change his statement. He said no.

'I do not remember' if I said it, does not mean 'I did not say it'. Chunnilal knows this difference, because he knows the law. After having joined the police force in 1987, he underwent courses in photography and finger-printing. And on his own initiative, completed an M.A. and an LLB. A lifelong student he is now pursuing a PhD in Hindi literature.

'Improvements' to statements recorded under section 161 are allowed under the law, though there are many instances where courts have said that they render witnesses unreliable. The defence moved and application to place on record what it called the contradictions and afterthoughts in Chunnilal’s statements. 

They also applied for access to 203 photographs of the crime scene, and the original samples of fingerprints from the scene. Chunnilal, the trained finger-print expert, hadn't collected any prints from Aarushi’s body. 

As for the others that he collected, he said he used a "black powder" to obtain them, did know the chemical he used. 

Another case of Dhyan nahi hai.

More on the Aarushi trial:
The message that wasn't on the bottle

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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