Aarushi Talwar case: A perfect botch-up?

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 14, 2017 10:02 hrs
Aarushi Talwar

In a case that captured the country’s imagination for nearly a decade, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the double murder case of their 14-year-old daughter, Aarushi Talwar and domestic help Hemraj. The court also had some choice words for the trial court judge who convicted the Talwars in 2013. The two are expected to be freed on Monday.

The involvement of Aarushi’s parents as suspects has been a roller coaster ride; from first being heartbroken parents of a murdered child to being convicted of murdering their daughter and their domestic help by a special CBI court in 2013, to now being set free.

The reaction ranged from vindication to what happens next.

The case after being taken over by the CBI went through multiple investigative officers and a number of suspects including Rajesh’s assistant Krishna. However, he along with two others were let off the hook by the CBI.

The DNA editorial called the verdict ‘justice for Talwars’ –

The Allahabad High Court’s order acquitting Rajesh and Nupur Talwar of the charge of murdering their daughter Aarushi and their servant Hemraj on the intervening night of May 15-16, 2008 is a relief for the Talwar couple, who have been, for a decade now, waging a war against a Kafkaesque state”.

The editorial goes on to criticize the CBI for its handling of the case and the media for the way the Talwars were treated and portrayed –

The judgement once again highlights that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), often identified as India’s premier investigation agency, does not deserve that descriptor. It has been the agency’s shoddy, motivated, and suspiciously perverted probe that not only protracted this case, but also managed to scuttle the ends of justice”.

In the aftermath of the double murder, the Talwars proved to be ready meat for the media. The couple, varyingly through the media’s lens, was child murderers, adulterers, wife-swappers, cold-blooded sociopaths. In the Talwars, the media found a punching bag."

The case was so high profile and well publicized, a movie called “Talvar”, based on the Aarushi murder and the subsequent investigation was made; written and produced by Vishal Bhardwaj.

The director Meghna Gulzar tells the Hindustan Times she doesn’t feel vindication, saying, “It cannot be a vindication for me. I am just a medium. The vindication has to be for the family, the Talwars’ lawyers and everybody else who stood by them”.

Advocate Aditya Singla in a column for the Indian Express, writes on the acquittal is affirmation justice and whether the parents can be found guilty on the basis of evidence which is not beyond reasonable doubt –

“The dentist couple, who were serving their life imprisonment sentence, were acquitted of murder on the grounds that the CBI had failed to prove that the parents were “guilty beyond any reasonable doubt” and therefore the Talwars could not be charged only on the basis of suspicion”.

It appears that the Allahabad High Court after analyzing the evidence has come to the conclusion that the prosecution has, in the first instance, failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt”.

Can parents kill their only child? Can they be held guilty on the basis of evidence, which is not beyond reasonable doubt? The parents have already lost their most precious gift, their daughter Aarushi and being charged for the death of their own daughter without substantial evidence would have been a miscarriage of justice”.

Was the handling of the case and subsequent investigations botched from the beginning? The police were quick to focus their attention on the parents after their initial suspect; the domestic help was found murdered too. The police from all accounts did not do thorough job as they reportedly failed to collect crucial evidence and did not even seal the crime scene, the Talwars’ home.

After going through 2 CBI teams and several investigators the closing report was filed in 2010. This report was used by a Ghaziabad court which it says found enough evidence in to summon the Talwars. They were then convicted of murder in 2013 and sentenced to life.

The Hindustan Times editorial stated that though the Talwars are now free, it could be temporary as the case will go to the Supreme Court –

This case has from day one not only captured the imagination of the people but also shaken the conscious of the nation, because here was a case where parents were accused of murdering their only child days ahead of her 15th birthday”.

Besides, this case has also been a sorry tale of botched up investigation from day one from the Noida police to the CBI. First, the Noida police floated a theory that Aarushi was found in an “objectionable position” with Hemraj and the father in a fit of rage killed both”.

This case has also seen the public take sides — a book and a movie were made on this incident, where attempts were made to highlight the shoddy investigation in the case. But Thursday’s court verdict is not the end of the road for Talwars – as the case will now travel up to the Supreme Court where once again the Talwars will have to prove their innocence”.

With regard to circumstantial evidence, senior advocate and additional solicitor general (ASG) Pinky Anand said, “All said and done, there is sympathy for the Talwars. We should look at circumstantial evidence being enough for indictment. The CBI closure report was one of the most damaging pieces for the case. On the face of it, it is compassion which has ruled the roost”.

The obvious question now is not just who killed Aarushi and the domestic help, but also can an investigation that began almost a decade ago which was not well handled to say the least, be brought back to life. Will there be new evidence? Will witnesses, if any, come forward? The sure bet is that the road to justice in this case is long and winding.

More columns by Varun Sukumar