Aarushi trial: The findings of a bizarre experiment

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 04:30 hrs

Is blood thicker than Shalimar Superlac (red) mixed with water? 

The Ghaziabad court where Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar are being tried heard a senior scientist from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) say that this was a question the investigating officer in the Aarushi-Hemraj case could answer. 

This passage of play occurred during the cross examination of Rajinder Singh. Singh was once appointed ad hoc director of the CFSL. He was removed after the Shanti Bhushan tapes controversy. He currently serves as a principal scientific officer at CFSL--one of the top posts in the organisation--but the fact that there might be a difference in the densities of blood and a mixture of paint and water appeared to be beyond his ken. 

Judge Shyam Lal told the witness that this wasn't the kind of answer he expected from an expert. 

The question came up because of a "dummy test" that was carried out on the terrace of the Talwars' NOIDA flat to ascertain whether two people could carry a man wrapped in a sheet up a flight of stairs (this is possible; surprised?). And the kind of drag marks that are created when the body is hauled from one part of the terrace to the other. 

The test was the brainchild of the CBI investigating officer A.G.L. Kaul and conducted about a year and a half after the murders. It involved several hapless constables, a few scientists, but little science. C-rated television serials do better reenactments. 

Tanveer Ahmed Mir, counsel for the defence, asked the witness whether such a demo test referenced any scientific papers. The CFSL scientist responded that it did not and added that there was no "tradition" which required it to. 

Did the Shalimar paint solution clot the way blood does? Singh avoided the court's ridicule on this one and admitted that it did not. 

Was he briefed that Hemraj was allegedly carried to the terrace by a man and a woman? And was a woman involved in carrying the constable wrapped in a sheet? Singh gave the correct scientific answer to this question: he was not briefed, and no woman was involved. 

In the end, Singh admitted that the "findings" of the demo test were not conclusive. The purpose of the bizarre experiment and the difference in densities of blood and diluted paint will no doubt be expanded upon by the CBI's A.G.L. Kaul, but there was a matter of great legal importance that slipped under the radar during Wednesday's slightly farcical events. 

Singh admitted that his conclusions were based on a comparison between photographs of the crime scene taken by the NOIDA police in May 2008, and photographs taken on the day of the dummy test taken in November 2010. The problem is that the latter set is not on record with the court and isn't part of the evidence. So how does the court satisfy itself that the expert's opinion is valid?

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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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