Aarushi Trial: Talwars in the dock

Last Updated: Sat, May 18, 2013 00:09 hrs

Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar spent the best part of the fifth anniversary of their daughter's death with their lawyers on Thursday, working out how to defend themselves against charges of murdering Aarushi and their servant Hemraj. On Friday, five years after the servant's body was found on their  errace, they were defending themselves in two courts: the CBI trial court in Ghaziabad, which they attended; and the Allahabad High Court, where their lawyers pleaded that witnesses crucial to the defence be summoned to testify in Ghaziabad.

In Allahabad, the Talwars got a hearing—unsurprising, because the Supreme Court had 'requested' (a polite way of saying directed) that court to take up their matter soonest. An order on whether or not the witnesses should be called has been 'reserved'. This means it could come at any time in the foreseeable (or not) future.

In Ghaziabad, court proceedings began in the afternoon. The procedure is called a '313' in jargon. In layman's terms it is a processby which any incriminating evidence—in the form of testimonies or documents—is presented by the court before the accused. He or she must then respond to the court. Some of the waiting media had been given to believe that Dr Talwar was about to 'confess'. It took some time, and the generally sage and formal process of the 313, for them to be convinced otherwise.

All that happens is that the testimony of a prosecution witness is read out to the accused, who then must answer whether it is true or false and is given the opportunity to explain why it is so. For instance, Rajesh Talwar stood before the judge on Friday, and on being asked about the testimony of Sunil Dohare, the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on Aarushi's body and belated said her vagina was unusually dilated, replied that the doctor had lied under pressure from the CBI. In the first five instances where he could have mentioned this fact, he did not—Dohare's "subjective finding" appears only in his last statement to the CBI, and in what he told the court during trial. His post-mortem report, or his other recorded statements have not even the hint of this suggestion.

The court asked Rajesh Talwar 188 questions on Friday—all picked out verbatim from the testimonies of prosecution witnesses. The actual process goes something like this: the judge says: 'A witness has said...and quotes a testimony. The accused must then respond to the embedded charge.

Judge Shyam Lal has a list of about 800 questions each for Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, so the process of recording their responses will be long. Especially given that he often  - as on Friday - doesn't have the services of a clerk, and must write the responses down himself. In the meantime, an order from the Allahabad High Court is awaited.

The High Court could either stay the 313, and direct the trial court to call the witnesses, who the Talwars argue are essential in the interest of truth. Or it could dismiss their plea. As the Talwars wait for that order, they also prepare to answer the trial court's questions on Monday.

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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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