The initial CBI investigation into the Aarushi-Hemraj murders threw up a reasonable possibility of the innocence of the dentist couple Dr Rajesh andNupur Talwar—and the involvement of intruders—in the crime.
But in a little less than a year, the team that was in charge of the investigation was changed. With the new team, came a dramatic U-turn: the Talwars were now treated as accused.What triggered this sudden change of mind? And what of the investigation after which the CBI had had publicly exonerated the Talwars?
An application moved by Aarushi's parents in the special court in Ghaziabad pleads that the prime mover of the CBI's first team, CBI Joint director Arun Kumar be called to testify. It was during Kumar's time that all the suspects in the case—Dr Rajesh Talwar, and three Nepali servants, Krishna, Rajkumar and Vijay Mandal—were in custody.
During the course of the investigation, Kumar held a press conference that pointed to the guilt of the servants. But his team could not file a charge-sheet within the 90-day period it was allowed to hold the servants. The three have now as good as disappeared. The defence wants Kumar to appear as a court witness. This offers the opportunity for a cross-examination. For instance, the reasons why he, as a senior investigator, came to the conclusion that the Talwars did not commit the crime can be laid before the court.
The prosecution has, predictably, opposed the application.
If the witness is so important for the defence, says the CBI, then call him in as a defence witness. The implications of this—like so many other things in this case—are slightly absurd. A decorated, serving police officer—Kumar is now back in his home state of Uttar Pradesh—will be expected to be "won over" by the Talwars, and testify against former colleagues, subordinates, and crucially, bosses. It is up to the court to decide whether it calls Kumar, but a second application from the Talwars expands on the same theme.
They want another 11 witnesses who the CBI relied upon to come to court—many of them cops.The prosecution rested its evidence after 39 of its 140 "relied upon" witnesses testified. It is the CBI's prerogative as to who they want to call, and who they don't. But it is also true that of the 39, an overwhelming number have substantially changed the statements they made to the team under Kumar—and always in a manner that supports the current CBI theory that the parents killed their daughter and servant.
Almost on a daily basis, these witnesses have come in and said they "told all" at every stage, and have no idea why the officers in the initial phase of the case omitted to mention the new "facts" that they recalled to the second CBI team two and a half years after the murders. The defence says that it must be given the oportunity to confront the officers with this: Did they really leave crucial details out? Or have the witnesses been pressured into "recalling" them after more than two years?
One instance of this is the testimony of the Talwars' neighbour Rohit Kochar. In a statement made to sub-inspector Yatish Sharma in October 2008, Kochar said he had gone to the Talwars' flat, but said nothing about observing "wiped bloodstains" on the stairs leading up to the terrace. In June 2010, in a statement recorded by A.G.L. Kaul, of the CBI's second team, Kochar's memory of the bloodstains is vivid. The defence has pleaded that Sharma takes the stand, and is allowed to be cross-examined.
The blood-stains in question were on the stairs on which a police officer, Sunita Rana, said she had sat the same day. She didn't make any mention of them in the statement that she has made either. Rana's statement (recorded in the ‘pre-Kaul" days) also says that the cleaning of the Talwars' flat on the evening Aarshi's body was discovered was done with police all over the place. She was there, too.
The prosecution chose not to call Rana, for exactly these reasons: its case on the destruction of evidence front falls apart. A murder trial is a game of concealment. The prosecution is doing it now. The defence will have its turn as the endgame begins. The bleak part is that the (extremely interested) public will therefore never quite know the truth about what happened to Aarushi and Hemraj.
Not through this trial, at any rate.
Senior CBI officers admit there's not enough evidence against Talwars
The CBI's 'because we say so' attitude
CBI officer's cross-examination raises the subject of Aarushi's 'virginity'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org