The key point of Tuesday's hearing at the Aarushi-Hemraj trial was whether the accused, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, were on the internet through the night of the murders. Bizarre, as this may sound, it is only one more strange circumstance in a murder where the assailants also left behind a half consumed, blood-stained, bottle of premium whiskey.
According to the CBI, the logs from the Talwars' net connection show someone was switching the router on and off periodically through the night of 15 May 2008, when the Talwars' daughter Aarushi and their servant Hemraj were murdered. The Talwars have consistently said they were asleep through the night and had no idea about the gruesome events taking place in their flat. If established, the internet activity would be very strong evidence of their involvement in the crimes. It would suggest they were awake, to begin with.
But the internet logs produced in evidence are inexplicable. The CBI had chosen a section of them to argue its case—focusing on activity from around 2 am to 6 am on the morning of the 16th. The Talwars, however, were billed—as per the same logs—for almost continuous use till after 1 pm that afternoon. This is a time just after Aarushi's killing was discovered, when their NOIDA flat was crawling with policemen, the media and visitors.
The logs suggest that some "users" were sitting at the computer amidst all of this activity. One witness, Deepak Kanda, nodal officer at Airtel, went only by the bill. A second, Bhupinder Singh, an employee of a government internet watchdog, said the logs were not comprehensive enough for any conclusions to be drawn. The actual log - the one that tells the real story of whether someone was on the net—was in the router itself. Investigators never seized this item - it could now well be in the home of an Airtel subscriber near you.
There was something conclusive about the hearing, however. On Tuesday there was more proof that in spite of its numerous imperfections, India's justice system can be made to work by individual will. The credit for this must go to the trial court judge, Shyam Lal - a man whose has acquired a reputation for sternness, because of his low tolerance for anything he finds slightly out of line in his court.
Shyam Lal's reputation comes with a nickname in Ghaziabad: 'Sazaa Lal'. The man who always convicts.
Last week, there was a shootout in the adjacent building and every lawyer and litigant ran for his life. Except those in judge Lal's court, where it was business as usual.
On Tuesday, the local lawyers called (yet another) strike. This time because of the announcement of a holiday on 'Agrasen Jayanti' by the Uttar Pradesh government - only a week or so after cancelling the holiday for 'Kanshi Ram Jayanti'.
The politics of Uttar Pradesh surrounds the court. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party government had instituted the Ambedkar holiday—a flag-waving day for Dalit politics. The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government took over, annulled that holiday, and instituted a new one - in honour of the mythical Maharaja Agrasen - a contemporary of Lord Krishna.
Agrasen has a modern constituency. It is the Agrawal (literally, 'children of Agrasen') community, a widely dispersed north Indian clan that comes in very handy at election time: the Agrawals control trade, and often big business. You will have surely heard of the Jindals and Mittals.
About a fifth of the lawyers in the Ghaziabad Bar are Dalits. They called a strike. No local lawyers came to work. Kanda's cross-examination was conducted by Tanveer Ahmed Mir, a Delhi lawyer who has joined the trial recently as counsel for the defence. And that is how, the show, at judge Lal's court, went on.
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