Aarushi trial: The cop who couldn't smell

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 21, 2013 20:26 hrs

Sub-inspector Bachu Singh, in uniform, and wearing his thick prescription glasses finally made his appearance as a prosecution witness on Thursday in the Aarushi Hemraj murder trial. During the course of his cross-examination, he made an incredible admission: he had no sense of smell, he told the court.

Bachu Singh had volunteered that when he saw the victim Hemraj’s body on the terrace, about 36 hours after the manservant had been killed, he found it in mint condition. There was no decomposition, no putrid smell.

And with that, he tested judge Shyam Lal’s patience. The trial judge let the policeman know that common sense hadn’t taken an adjournment: “What are you talking about? No stink after a body lies outside almost two days in the middle of May?”

This is when Bachu Singh pulled out a classic: “Sir, hamein na badboo ata hai, na khushboo.” (I get sense neither stink, nor aroma!)

What was supposed to be a murder trial hearing was thus transformed into low-level village entertainment in the space of a sentence. The worrying thing is, that the days this happens during the course of this trial are becoming increasingly frequent. It is passages like these that will decide whether or not the Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar are murderers.

Thursday’s entertainment continued. Stepping in for his witness, trying to explain that a body may not decompose, CBI counsel R.K. Saini weighed in with a valuable nugget of anecdotal information on the changing weather of north India. In Punjab, where he was from, summer actually sets in around July-August nowadays, he told the court with his signature twitchy smile. May, when the murders took place, is relatively cool. (For the record, the temperature in the Delhi region on the relevant day in May 2008 was 47 degrees in the shade.)

Having heard Saini out, judge Shyam Lal asked the witness with undisguised irony whether he, too, was from Punjab. “No sir”, said Bachu Singh, I am from Mathura.” This is about the only undiluted truth the policeman said in court on Thursday.

Beneath the ‘nautanki’ is a more sinister play. The cop’s description of the corpse in court was meant to suggest it was easily identifiable, and this has to be understood in the context of his claim that the Talwar family refused to identify Hemraj positively. Ergo, they were buying time: only the guilty would do that.

Bachu Singh was one of the first cops on the crime scene; he wrote out the panchnamas for both murders. But as his day in court wore on, the suspicion that he may have doctored them became increasingly reasonable. In Aarushi’s panchnama, for instance, a line appears to have been added (in visibly smaller letters) that her pyjama strings were untied. (This fits the theory—formulated two years later—that her privates were cleaned.)

Singh denied that he had made this schoolboy like alteration to the document. He told the court (in a very schoolboy way): “it might appear so… But I just did it to fill out the line.”

The judge smiled, the scribe took it down. The fact is that this kind of “line-filling” is all over the police documents in this case. Bachu Singh offered a stunningly simple explanation for this in court: “Hum aise hi karte hain.”

Come to think of it, he could easily have been speaking for investigators across cadres and agencies that have dealt with this case.

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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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