The Allahabad High Court stayed the proceedings of the CBI special court hearing the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial on Thursday. It found, prima facie, that the trial court in Ghaziabad has rejected petitions of the accused, Aarushi's parents Dr Rajesh and Nuour Talwar, on "wholly imperssible grounds".
The Talwars, being tried for the May 2008 murders of their daughter and their servant Hemraj, had pleaded with the trial judge to allow vital case documents to be placed on record. The documents are all part of the investigation and in the possession of the CBI. The agency has resisted every attempt to place them on record, presumably because they could potentially destroy the CBI's case. The agency has accused the Talwars of trying to "delay proceedings" and cause "confusion". A scathing order from the trial court two weeks ago upheld the CBI position: it rejected the Talwars' plea for the documents, and (very unusually) cut the list of defence witnesses to less than half based on the CBI's objections to some of the witnesses.
Even as the Talwars went to the Allahabad High Court to appeal against the order, wheels of justice turned at Formula 1 speed in Ghaziabad. The fourth witness of six allowed by the court is currently being examined. This, however, will now stop.
The Allahabad High Court made clear in Thursday's order that it wont tolerate deliberate delays by either side, and set July 2 for the CBI to file its reply to the arguments made by the defence. Arguments that the court saw substance in.
The documents sought by the defence are critical for the Talwars because the events of the night of May 15-16 2008 are the mother of all closed door mysteries. Four people were in a flat on a night - a classic middle-class family of three and their servant - two were murdered. Were the other two survivors or murderers? And how is it that they didnt know anything about the blows that were struck and the blood that flowed in a room adjacent to theirs?
The circumstances place the onus of providing an alternative hypothesis, something that plausibly suggests that someone else may have committed the murders on the Talwars.
The documents they seek, give them the chance to do that:
* The narco tests administered on the three servants initially suspected of the crime led to the seizure of a possible murder weapon: a khukri. But these reports have so far been suppressed by the CBI even though it has admitted that there were things that implicated the servants. The Talwars want the documents placed on record.
(The tests on the Talwars, however, have been submitted to other courts, and widely circulated among the media, primarily for something totally unconnected to the murder: a hint of a suggestion that the Talwars led a "fast" life. A line that said Nupur Talwar was attracted to someone outside of her marriage. It has been repeatedly insinuated that the kind of environment that Aarushi grew up in made the possibility of sex with the servant a plausible. Ironically, the CBI has also argued that beneath all this urban amorality, lay the deep-rooted conservatism that led to this "honour killing".)
Citing the Supreme Court on the Telgi scam, defence counsel Tanveer Ahmad Mir argued that the servants' narco reports be brought on record. The trial judge had ignored the fact that material evidence such as a possible murder weapon was seized as a consequence of the scientific tests. The Supreme Court has made it clear that such evidence must be admitted, said Mir.
* There was direct forensic evidence implicating Krishna, the employee of the Talwars from whom the khukri was seized after his revelations in the scientific tests. A pillow cover found in Krihna's room had Hemraj's blood on it, according to a DNA report from CDFD Hyderabad. This report lay with the CBI till the Talwars pointed out this piece of evidence--their alternative hypothesis, their answer to 'if not you, then who? At which point, with the help of some obviously fraudulent means, the CBI got the lab to say that there were typographical errors in the report, and let Krishna off the hook. (Krishna, and the two other servants who may have been accomplices, left for Nepal shortly after they were released from custody. It is highly unlikely that any of them will ever be traced.)
Thursday's High Court order suggests that it is important to know how a forensic report can suddenly be changed after two years. And how, in a number of instances in this case, blood is found on a sample collected at the scene but its origin is found to be "non-human".
* Were the Talwars telling the truth when they said they slept as their daughter was murdered in the next room? That they heard nothing? A sound test was conducted by experts engaged by the CBI. The results of the tests showed that this was actually possible. Expert opinion is evidence, said the High Court and the trial court had erred in dismissing it without taking a look at it. It happens, observed the Allahabad court, when judges write long orders. The rejection order in question was 11 pages long.
A forensic expert summoned as a defence witness was supposed to appear on Friday for the rest of his deposition. This will now happen only after the CBI files its reply in Allahabad on July 2.
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