The Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial has exposed the politics within the CBI from time to time, on Wednesday, differences between its officers came to the surface once again. One of its own told a court under oath that his senior had denied him permission to arrest Nupur Talwar for interrogation during the course of the investigation.
Aarushi’s mother, Nupur, is a co-accused in the case. But she was not an accused at the time the CBI filed its closure report in 2010. The defence asked A.G.L. Kaul, the CBI ASP who led the investigation on the ground, why Nupur wasn’t listed as an accused at the time, given that Kaul had described the sequence of events — and Nupur’s role in the murders — so confidently just a day before.
Kaul took the longest pause he’s taken to answer a question so far, and then blamed his boss. He had intended to arrest Nupur for interrogation during his investigation, he said, but the man he reports to, SP Neelabh Kishore, denied him permission.
This isn’t the first time Kaul has said his bosses were in the way. While explaining why the CBI never charged the Talwars after his investigation, he has told the court that Javed Ahmed, the joint director in overall charge, and Kishore prevented him from doing that as well. They felt he didn’t have a good enough case for a conviction — something the closure report clearly says.
Kaul’s motives for blaming his superiors are unclear, but he is saying what he is under oath.
In the early part of the trial, the prosecution would effectively trash the work of the CBI team that Ahmed, Kishore and Kaul took over from. Witness statements recorded by the first team were regularly “improved” after subsequent interviews that often said the exact opposite of what the witness had said earlier. Opinions of experts and doctors changed radically, once Kaul met them.
It is possible that this is precisely why his seniors felt Kaul didn’t have a case. Apart from the fact that a murder weapon was never found, and crucially, there was no forensic evidence at all linking the Talwars to the crime.
The evidence that existed was against one the Talwars’s employees, Krishna. On Tuesday Kaul had told the court that he was aware of the “error” in a forensic report that had traced Hemraj’s blood to Krishna’s room, but never communicated with the lab about its reports at all.
On Wednesday, he had to admit that he had indeed communicated with the lab, and that in response to a query about another part of the report, the lab had, pointed out a typographical error in a formal request from the CBI. This is ironic: the CBI says the Krishna report contained a critical “typographical error”.
One other aspect of the forensic testing remains murky. The Talwars had repeatedly requested the CBI to use Low Copy DNA testing. This is a method which requires just a few cells in order to generate a sequence, and allows samples to be tested effectively even after decades. It has been successfully used in “cold” cases in the UK.
Kaul claimed he had contacted labs abroad — no one does it in India — for the tests, just one of them agreed to do the job. This one, said Kaul, was suggested by the Talwars and not even accredited. He didn’t send the samples.
The use of this technique in this case primarily concerns the bloody palm print the assailant left on a rough wall on the Talwars’ terrace. Had Kaul got touch DNA tests done on the sample and it turned out it matched the Talwars, it would have been game over for the defence.
This chunk off wall lies in a godown in the CBI’s headquarters in Delhi. And the story written in blood on it remains unread.
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Where is the common sense?
Convicted in one murder, cop witness in another 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