The country's most high-profile-and baffling-murder trial is fast reaching end-game stage in a special court in Ghaziabad, and perhaps for one final time, the accused, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
The Talwars have moved a special leave petition in the Supreme Court that prays it to direct the trial court to call witnesses crucial to their defence. But these are not “defence witnesses”, in fact, they were supposed to appear for the prosecution. Their plea to the trial court to summon them was rejected on May 4.
The CBI had listed as many as 140 witnesses it “relied upon” when the trial began. At the end of last month, the agency rested its evidence after examining less than a third of that number.
Its final witness, A.G.L. Kaul, the investgating officer, told the court his version of a reconstructed sequence of events that led to the crime. For the CBI, that was it.
Why didn't the agency call the other witnesses to testify? The answer to that is quite simple: it is the prosecution's prerogative who it wishes to call. But there's a layer of nuance that lies beneath that reasoning. A case without hard evidence has to be fought on perception. The witnesses
the CBI has called may have been absurd (a man who travels 56 km for a morning walk); coached (the Talwars' maid Bharti told the court she was saying what the CBI had told her to say); or bizarre (the post-mortem doctor who held the opinion that erections had a life after death, based on his own conjugal experiences).
Several of them were torn apart in cross-examination. But very little of the reporting on the case has reflected this. The witnesses who have testified so far haven't altered the 'perception' that the Talwars are guilty.
And the CBI isn't willing to bring in anyone who will change that even if it had relied upon that witness's statements to mount the case. There are at least a dozen people—mostly cops—who are on record as having said what is materially opposite to the story the CBI put out in court. The lady constable Sunita Rana, for instance, who sat on the very stairs another witness claimed was covered with blood stains (this 'improvement' was two years after telling investigators he saw nothing of the sort). The senior CBI officer Arun Kumar, for instance had a completely different version of what happened than Kaul, and he went public with it.
But the trial court will come to its conclusion based on what 'it' hears, not on what else is in the public domain.
Summoning Rana or Kumar may be in the interest of finding the truth, but not in the interest of the prosecution. These witnesses are
capable of changing 'perception'. This is the last thing the CBI wants.