Dataram Nanoria, the first investing officer in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial took the stand as a witness for the prosecution on Wednesday.
He appeared in uniform. Last year, in the courtroom opposite where he stood on Wednesday, Nanoria was convicted in a custodial death case dating to his days in Bulandshahar.
The prosecuting agency was the CBI.
Nanoria is now posted in Saharanpur district, from all accounts has appealed his conviction, and serves as a sub-inspector in the Gangoh police station.
Nanoria was on the case for less than 48 hours. He began working on it on the morning of 16 May 2008, when Aarushi's murder was reported and witnessed the discovery of Hemraj's body on the terrace of the accused couple Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar the next day.
By the evening of 17 May, however, he was transferred out.
His stint on the case may have been short, but Nanoria made a startling new revelation in court. He said that Dr Rajesh Talwar turned up at his police station in NOIDA at 7.10 on the morning of 16 May (about an hour after Aarushi was found dead) to register a case.
Thirty-odd witnesses — many of them policemen — have testified before Nanoria, but none of them have made this claim. Nanoria made it in the first line of his testimony, and now, the prosecution will have to figure a way of fitting every other statement made by policemen, who claimed they saw the Talwars "normal but tense", lacking grief on their faces, at suspiciously close times.
Let us be reasonable here: could someone go to any police station in India, register an FIR at 7.10 saying their daughter had been murdered, and be back in approximately 20 minutes? Which is when a stream of visitors start coming in, beginning with policemen who say they saw the couple in the flat—nervous, no tears.
Dataram Nanoria effectively repeated that last bit: it is the chorus of the prosecution's composition.
But how Dr Talwar managed the amazing feat of registering an FIR and being back home to open the door to the scene of the tragedy to an eclectic band of visitors so soon, is baffling.
And it is only one of the baffling things Nanoria said. The cop claimed that Rajesh Talar called up the police at 10.45 am on 17 May, asking them to check the terrace. The previous day, Nanoria and his colleagues had found blood stains on the door, but hadn't bothered to investigate further, claiming that the door was locked; the Talwars wouldn't provide the key; that no 'mechanic' could be found to break the lock.
All the while, half the evidence — one of the bodies in a double murder — lay just a few feet behind that locked door.
Nanoria's claim that the Talwars actually wanted the door opened goes against the grain of what the court has heard from other witnesses so far. All of them have said the Talwars did their best to prevent a survey of the terrace; some have implied that they did not want to be on the scene when Hemraj's body was discovered.
But once the terrace door was broken open, and Hemraj's body was discovered, what did Nanoria and his team do? This sub-inspector is blessed with a better sense of smell than his colleague Bachu Singh who testified recently ('Mereko na badboo ata hai, na khshboo'); and he said the body was in a state of moderate decomposition, with its attendant smells.
He also said that it was concealed by a cooler panel: a vital piece of evidence, something that might have yielded fingerprints and blood-stains. Why did he not sieze the cooler panel? It was too large, apparently, for it to be taken as evidence.
Judge Shyam Lal found this somewhat incredible, but this is par for the course in this trial.
After the policeman who couldn't smell, you get the policeman who couldn't lift.
Nanoria's cross examination continues on Thursday, and promises much more entertainment.
A case full of holes
The case against Talwars is based on shoddy investigation
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org