An important development in the Aarushi-Hemraj trial occurred on Thursday: the CBI fast track court will hear the matter twice a week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting now.
The court's order came after a representation by defence counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir that the accused, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, needed to earn their living in order to mount their defence. The Talwars are dentists by profession, and random court dates—each date consumes a full day—do not leave room for them to pursue their vocation.
This is a development that begs the obvious question: how do the Talwars pay their lawyers?
This question has to be answered in parts. The Talwars have been fighting their case at three different courts—the trial court, the Allahaba High Court and the Supreme Court—and the card rates for counsel in each court is different.
Starting at the top, where Dr Nupur Talwar was granted bail in September, there is a distinguished law firm—Karanjiawala and Sons, run by Ryan Karanjiawal—and a set of redoubtable (and very expensive) lawyers who appear on the Talwars' behalf. Among them are Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi and K.V. Vishwanathan and Rebecca John, a lawyer who takes on a number of cases with human rights angles to them.
Lawyers' fees in the Supreme Court can be bizarre: Rs 10-15 lakh per appearance is the norm at the very top. If the Ambanis for instance, have a protracted court case, they will probably have to write off a small oil field. The thing about this case was, however, that top lawyers chose to do it for free.
Rebecca John says she was moved and convinced by the Talwars' story. This led to the family approaching Salve. Salve was told there was no money in it but agreed with a nod (rather than the theatrical bow he reserves for the Supreme Court). Once Salve was on board—pro bono—the others took it on in the same spirit.
In the lower courts, the scene is different. Here livings have to be earned—in the resent continous. In the Allahabad High Court, where the Talwars went first, they spent about a lakh of rupees in fees. They continue spending money on that court.
In Ghaziabad, a set of lawyers appears on their behalf. All of them honest, committed, professionals who know the system and are also trying to make a living. They have charges.
In all, according to Rajesh Talwar, the legal costs each month could be anywhere between Rs 50,000 and a lakh a month.
Where do the Talwars get the money? Dr Talwar says he and his wife—just out on bail—are grateful for patients who are still loyal to them, and pay the Rs 500 consultation fee. The earnings from his clinic covers living expenses. For the rest, he must depend on what he describes as "friends and family”.
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