In the Aarushi-Hemraj murders, a question of great interest in our salacious middle-class minds is this: was the servant sleeping with the Talwars' teenage daughter? The CBI's case against the parents, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, rests on this presumption.
So were Hemraj and Aarushi...?
Dr Naresh Raj, the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on Hemraj's body delighted his CBI handlers by telling the Ghaziabad court that Hemraj's penis was swollen at the time of his post-mortem. Under oath, the mortician said this indicated Hemraj was either in the act of sex or preparing for intercourse when he was murdered.
On Monday, the doctor told the court that he had based the observation not on any science but on what he had "experienced" in his "own marriage".
Judge Shyam Lal, who recently sat through a testimony where the witness claimed he couldn't smell, took some time to absorb this bizarre admission. He was hand writing the transcript of proceedings. Yet another strike meant no steno, but this judge seldom allows such things to come in the way of his work. So he wrote Dr Raj's answers for the record:
"I am married and it is on the basis of my experience (as a married man) that I testified that the dead man's penis was swollen because he was either having intercourse or preparing for it. But I cannot support this claim by quoting any scientific authority."
This was a man who had a master's degree in medicine, and in the context of this case, had sat on an expert committee formed by the top professionals from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, signing off on a report on the murders.
How can such a man claim that he observed an erection on a festering 36-hour-old cadaver, because of his personal conjugal experiences? But perhaps the more important question is: how can he be allowed to say such a thing under oath and get away with it? In a civilized country, he would have been 'the former doctor Raj' by the time he left the courtroom.
In this instance, there are wheels within wheels that have to be considered, they spiral onto themselves and into a soup of intrigue. Some months ago, the CBI had claimed that Dr Raj - a government servant, living in government accommodation - had gone missing. Family members said he had suffered a serious head injury. We could speculate whether that has something to do with Monday's rantings, but the critical thing is that the CBI wasn't looking for him just for the purpose of this case.
In the courtroom across where the Talwar's stand trial, is another court that is hearing a huge medical scam case involving bureaucrats, politicians, and government doctors. Raj's involvement there is suspected (he denies this). The prosecuting agency is the CBI.
As if that were not enough, Naresh Raj's wife Richa, a pathologist, has been questioned by the agency on the swapping of Aarushi's vaginal swabs: the slides were taken at the mortuary and came to her first. A forensic lab said the slides they had received later were not of the “biological child” of the dentist couple.
Journalists tend to blame various arms of the state, or the "system" for much of what we see wrong. But this case demands a hard look at ourselves. The best of us are ignorant and naive - often simultaneously. Dr Raj's original swollen penis theory was carried unquestioned, with headlines that made it clear it was a case of murderous coitus-interruptus.
So what actually happens to a corpse when it lies rotting in the May heat of Delhi for 36 hours? The authoritative Indian text on this is Modi's 'Medical Jurisprudence and toxicology'. It says very clearly, that the penis and scrotum of the cadaver become "enormously swollen", in such situations.
Dr Raj was confronted with this opinion during his cross examination, and he agreed with Modi. Adding only, that his opinion was that of a married man.
I find some comfort in the fact that he deals only with dead people in his day job.
Where is the common sense?
Convicted in one murder, cop witness in another
A case full of holes
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