Aarushi trial: The contentious letter both sides are fighting over

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 27, 2012 19:54 hrs

The CBI’s application to place a new set of documents on record in the special court hearing the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial, was opposed by the Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar on Thursday. The agency has handed the documents over to trial judge who will decide whether they are admissible on 29 September.

Of the list of ten documents, however, there is one that is particularly contentious. It is why the combatants are filing pages upon pages of applications and objections, and studying Supreme Court judgments to cite.

The document in question, is a letter from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad, dated 24 March 2011. In a very matter-of-fact way, the letter admits that the laboratory had committed typographical errors in its DNA reports, and rectifies the “errors”.

It signs off saying: “The inconvenience caused in this regard is regretted.”

The letter concerns a specific report: one that says there is DNA evidence implicating a suspect who has been let off: Krishna, a former employee of the Talwars'. If the report stands as the CDFD first submitted it, then the CBI will have to explain how Hemraj’s blood was found on Krishna’s pillow cover several houses away. And why this line of investigation was abandoned despite evidence that came in as far back as 2008.

If the judge admits the document, however, the defense is at a disadvantage. The court will then have to answer only one question in this regard: was there a genuine typographical error? If it decides there was, then the Talwars’ defence on there being evidence of outsiders’ involvement is considerably weakened.

The CDFD letter is an interesting document. Its operative parts are not words, but symbols. These are the numbers or 'aliases' the lab assigns to samples it receives. In this instance, it says 'Z14' should be swapped with 'Z20' when reading its report. Everything else, including the description of the items, remains the same. When this is done, the report no longer reads that Hemraj’s blood was found on Krishna’s pillow cover.

The CDFD gives no indication that a fresh, corrected, report would follow. It just says read Z14 as Z20 and vice versa.

Why was such a letter written? More than two years after it received the forensic report from the CDFD, no one in the CBI appears to have seen that there was DNA evidence that implicated someone other than the Talwars. Otherwise, the clarification from the lab would have surely been sought before the agency closed the investigation.

The DNA report was first brought up in the Talwars' revision petition in the Allahabad High Court in early 2011. The court dismissed the defence’s plea and said the CDFD had committed typographical errors in an order on March 18, 2011. This was six days before the CDFD actually sent its clarification.

The CBI wrote to the CDFD on 17 March. The letter it now wants on record in the trial court arrived on 24 March, and was written after the lab “sought clarifications” from its own DNA examiners.

The prosecution has consistently argued that the defence deliberately uses what is a simple “typographical error” to turn the case in their favour.

Can the document be admitted? The defence says it cannot. The letter was sought and received well after the investigation was closed, and may well be an attempt by the CBI to tamper with evidence.

The prosecution cited a Supreme Court ruling that suggested such evidence was admissible. The defence relied on rulings that suggested otherwise. On Saturday, the trial judge will decide.

More on Aarushi trial:

Death of a not so 'key' witness steals limelight

Aarushi Trial: How the court works

Trial games set to intensify as Nupur gets bail

Peculiar development stumps CBI

CBI's loss is Talwars' gain

Friends of the Talwars give testimony

Killer's palm print lost due to a cop's negligence?

The mystery of the bloodstained, locked terrace door

CBI's Teacher's Day

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

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