More than eight years after 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar was found lifeless with her throat slit in Noida on May 16, 2008, and a little less than four years after Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were jailed for their daughers murder by a trial court, the Talwars were freed by the Allahabad High Court on October 13.
The High Court in its ruling pulled no punches when it came to their view of the original conviction by the trial court. "The learned trial Judge cannot act like a math teacher who is solving a mathematical question by analogy after taking certain figure for granted... Like a film director, the trial judge has tried to thrust coherence amongst facts inalienably scattered here and there but not giving any coherence to the idea as to what in fact happened," High Court judges Justice BK Narayana and Justice AK Mishra were reported to have observed in their judgment.
Nupur's father, an 84-year-old BG Chitnis, was quietly relieved. "After a long stay at Dasna jail, Nupur and Rajesh have finally got justice and they're coming back home. We welcome the verdict," he told The Indian Express. "The last nine years have been a great ordeal for us... At this age, to manage the house, and to come to terms with reality, was a struggle for me and my wife. But we were confident that truth was on our side."
But what about finding the real culprits? The Talwars' lawyer, Rebecca John, explained to the newspaper that chances of this happening are very slim. "The first 48 hours are the most crucial during investigation and here we are, talking about it years later. There isn’t much that can be done to take the case further. The CBI couldn't get any evidence even 15 days after the case. As of now, this is a very complicated legal scenario," she explained.
In a more detailed interview to The Wire, Ms John termed the case a witch-hunt. "This case throws up many questions and each one of us, be it the media, judiciary or general public, we must guard ourselves against witch-hunting of people, even people who could be under the scanner or needle of suspicion. Everyone has a right to prove their innocence, until proved guilty," she noted.
Avirook Sen, the one journalist who followed the trial diligently, covered it for Sify.com, wrote a book on it, and who always believed the Talwars were innocent on the basis of his investigations, greeted the judgment with a simple statement on twitter:
#aarushi. The talwars are acquitted— avirook sen (@avirooksen) October 12, 2017
Sify.com columnist Nandini Krishnan in her piece "Justice delayed is justice denied" took the opportunity to remind everyone of the fate the Talwars have had to endure:
"Imagine being arrested within weeks of cremating your child; imagine your husband being arrested within weeks of cremating your child. Imagine being told you did not show enough grief over the death of your child. Imagine details of your sex life being discussed in the newspapers. Imagine being accused of the murder of your own child. Imagine facing the prospect of death row over the alleged murder of your own child. Imagine being sentenced to life in prison.
"Imagine sitting in your cell, as movies are made about your life and books written. Imagine, after four years, being acquitted.
"Imagine being the Talwars, nine years after the greatest tragedy of their lives, having spent half that time trying to prove that they were not the architects of that tragedy. And will they be left alone now that the Allahabad High Court has acquitted them? The prosecution is already livid that they have got away “scot-free”, and plans to appeal against the acquittal in the Supreme Court."
Lawyer and columnist Dushyant on NDTV.com accepted that he for one didn't "have an opinion about whether the Talwars murdered Aarushi or not."
But he went on to observe that "I do have an opinion about what the court ought to have done. The chain of evidence does not conclusively point one way or another. Therefore, the accused cannot be deprived of their liberty. We need not and must not feel compelled to punish someone/anyone just because a 14-year-old child has been murdered. It is perfectly normal and possible for a murder case to not conclusively point to any person in which case it's not "no one killed Aarushi", but "we cannot say with certainty who killed Aarushi" and therefore we cannot punish anyone. Wanting to punish someone just because we feel pained and outraged may have something to do with a society seeking some kind of moral closure, it does not have anything to do with justice."
Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Print, India, chose to reflect on what he termed were two fundamental questions the judgment had thrown up. "If Aarushi's parents were not guilty as the higher court says today, who is to compensate them for four years of their liberty. They have been in jail now since 2013. So, does our appeal process have to be this long. In fact, recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court in another case gave reprieve to a few rape convicts on the grounds that our appeal process takes too long. If these two are innocent, should they have been in jail for this long and also carry the trauma that they were charged with the murder of their own daughter? This is a question that needs to be answered. Second is also a fundamental question and that is on the quality of the criminal investigation by our police forces and frankly also the CBI. This case was messed up, the crime scene was messed up, the forensics were messed up. As a result... will the murderer never be caught?"
Another journalist Shiv Aroor said the judgment was a rap for many willingly gullible scribes covering the case:
Lots of journalists have egg on their face today. Went beyond brief to create ecosystem of plausibility around cop bullshit. #AarushiVerdict— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) October 12, 2017
The important dates in the trial that has engaged a nation as captured by News18: