Aarushi trial: Screaming advocates and a media-friendly lawyer!

Last Updated: Mon, Jul 23, 2012 08:46 hrs

Rajesh Talwar had attended two hearings at the Ghaziabad district courts. In court number 12, he deposed for the prosecution as the victim of an attempted murder -- Utsav Sharma, a deranged youth, had attacked him with a meat cleaver slashing his face.

In the adjacent special CBI court, he was a defendant: on trial with his wife Nupur for the May 2008 murder of their daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj.
The two cases don't just have Dr Talwar in common, but also a cast of lawyers of unclear persuasion. Apparently unconnected with the case -- they do not represent either the Talwars or the prosecution -- they are fixtures in the trial court. They do not argue. But they do quarrel, and they have just drawn the prosecution into an unseemly squabble that the judge will now deal with.

On Monday, the CBI moved an application that effectively pleaded for the removal from the courtroom of all those unconnected with the case, and one advocate, Sanjay Tyagi, in particular.

The CBI asked that an earlier order which says: no one but the parties and their counsels should be allowed to enter the courtroom. This order came hours after the attack on Dr Talwar on 25 January 2011, and addressed the safety concerns that arose from the incident. It was subsequently endorsed by the Supreme Court, which freed the lower court to use "coercive measures" if required to enforce it. It is this order that serves to keep the media out of the courtroom.

The CBI's application describes the scene in court on 21 June graphically: some persons during trial knowingly tried to sneak and come close to deposing witnesses and case property (sic). Sanjay Tyagi tried to brief prosecution witness Chunnilal, and on being stopped, he started shouting loudly in the courtroom.

So who is this Sanjay Tyagi? An advocate who has been in the Ghaziabad court since 1987, Tyagi represented Krishna and two other servants who were once suspects, but have long been acquitted. He claims that he has moved an application that is still pending with the trial court. This concerns the discovery of a glove in a drain near the Talwars' home by one Ashish (whose antecedents are unclear). Tyagi says the glove is with him, and it should be admitted as evidence.

He says he had tried to hand it over to the CBI but failed.

Tyagi is a man of curious contradictions: he drives a Skoda, but wears the cheapest canvas shoes. A thin man with a flowing grey beard, long hair tied in a ponytail and a manner of speech that sounds like a pravachan, he could have been on Aastha channel if he had swapped white for saffron.

But here he is, in court. And he says: Nobody can stop me (from entering).

The other lawyer who might be affected by the application is Naresh Yadav. He says he represents Hemraj's wife. But it is the state's (or prosecution's) responsibility to seek justice for Hemraj.

Yadav is a fair strapping personality (as they say in these parts). And in an environment where both defence and prosecution are cautious about what they say, Yadav dabs the sweat on his face and provides the most elaborate bytes to the television cameras that wait outside every day of the trial.

On the board above his office in the court complex is a picture of him with a legend that says (in Hindi) "a nationally renowned advocate ".

While the sneaking and occasional shouting goes on inside the courtroom, reporters take turns to stand at the door to try and hear snatches of the proceedings. And policemen take turns to shoo them away.

The man who does most of the chaliye, hatiye is a fierce looking UP cop called Mathura Prasad, who always carries a notebook with a quote, purportedly by Aristotle, on its cover ("The quality of life is determined by its activities").

As on date, however, the media hasn't been the problem. In May, judge Shyam Lal angrily reprimanded the UP police: a lady constable was apparently giggling through proceedings. Last week, two policemen leapt at a gentleman speaking loudly on his cellphone outside the open window of the courtroom. 

He turned out to be from the CBI.

The judge will decide on the CBI's latest application on Tuesday, as well as on those filed by the defence on 21 June.

More on the Aarushi trial:

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