Aarushi case: HC ac­quits Tal­wars over lack of proof

NINE YEARS ON Den­tist cou­ple will be re­leased to­day; CBI to ap­proach SC

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - News - Ji­ten­dra Sarin and Peeyush Khan­del­wal n let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The Al­la­habad high court ac­quit­ted on Thurs­day Ra­jesh and Nupur Tal­war in the 2008 mur­der of their 14-year-old daugh­ter Aarushi and do­mes­tic help Hem­raj, giv­ing the “ben­e­fit of doubt” to the ac­cused in the face of in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

A bench of judges BK Narayana and AK Mishra set aside the life sen­tence given to the den­tist cou­ple by a spe­cial CBI court in 2013 and or­dered that the two be re­leased im­me­di­ately from jail.

“Cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence was not ad­e­quate for a con­vic­tion beyond doubt,” the court said, adding that nei­ther the cir­cum­stances nor the ev­i­dence on record es­tab­lished the cou­ple’s in­volve­ment in the crime.

The judg­ment brings down the cur­tains on one of In­dia’s most sen­sa­tional mur­der tri­als that sparked nu­mer­ous con­spir­acy the­o­ries with many ac­cus­ing the po­lice of bungling the probe.

“We are grate­ful to ev­ery­one... I have seen them (Ra­jesh and Nupur) suf­fer,” said Aarushi’s grand­fa­ther BG Chit­nis.

On May 16, 2008, Aarushi was found mur­dered in­side her bed­room in the Tal­wars’ flat in Noida’s posh Jal­vayu Vi­har — her throat slit with sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion. The po­lice ini­tially sus­pected the miss­ing house help from Nepal, Hem­raj, but his de­com­posed body was found a day later from in­side a locked room on the build­ing’s ter­race.

The po­lice then be­gan to sus­pect the Tal­wars and said Ra­jesh, the fa­ther, had mur­dered the two af­ter find­ing them in an “ob­jec­tion­able” po­si­tion. The case was later trans­ferred to the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We are sat­is­fied with the judg­ment and are greatly re­lieved. We be­lieve jus­tice has been done as the court has set aside the trial court’s or­der for lack of suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence,” said de­fence coun­sel Dilip Ku­mar, who rep­re­sented the Tal­wars.

The HC also pointed out “var­i­ous short­com­ings” in the lower court’s judg­ment, while rul­ing in favour of the de­fen­dants who had chal­lenged the ver­dict.

Jail of­fi­cials at Dasna said the cou­ple were pray­ing since the morn­ing and burst into tears as soon as the judg­ment was an­nounced. “When we went to Ra­jesh, he hugged me and burst into tears. He said that jus­tice has been de­liv­ered,” said DR Mau­rya, jail su­per­in­ten­dent. He said the cou­ple was likely to be re­leased on Fri­day af­ter the prison au­thor­i­ties re­ceived a copy of the court or­der.

Sources in the CBI said they would de­cide the next course of ac­tion af­ter study­ing the ver­dict.

The high court ver­dict caps a se­ries of twists and turns in the trial of a case that gripped the na­tion. Within weeks of the mur­der, the Ut­tar Pradesh po­lice drew flak for do­ing a shoddy job and al­legedly tam­per­ing ev­i­dence. Then chief min­is­ter Mayawati then handed over the case to the CBI.

Two CBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors reached dif­fer­ing con­clu­sions on the ba­sis of more or less the same ev­i­dence.

The first team led by Arun Ku­mar claimed a break­through on the ba­sis of “sci­en­tific ev­i­dence”, pri­mar­ily narco-anal­y­sis test re­ports, and ar­rested three men— Tal­war’s com­pounder Kr­ishna and two do­mes­tic helps work­ing in the neigh­bour­hood, Ra­jku­mar and Vi­jay Man­dal. But the agency even­tu­ally failed to build a case against them.

An­other team probed the par­ents but it too failed to build a case, fil­ing a clo­sure re­port in 2009 that named Ra­jesh Tal­war as the sole sus­pect based on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence but re­fused to charge him due to lack of ev­i­dence.

But a spe­cial CBI court re­jected the fed­eral agency’s claim that there was not enough ev­i­dence, and or­dered pro­ceed­ings against the Tal­wars.

The par­ents can­not be held guilty just be­cause they were present in the house when mur­der took place. They should get the ben­e­fit of doubt. They are be­ing set free. AL­LA­HABAD HIGH COURT

htre­porters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Nearly a decade af­ter one of the most sen­sa­tional mur­ders in In­dia, no one knows for sure who killed Aarushi Tal­war.

Nei­ther does there is clar­ity on the death of Hem­raj, the do­mes­tic help em­ployed in the Noida res­i­dence of Aarushi’s den­tist par­ents, Ra­jesh and Nupur Tal­war.

Con­spir­acy the­o­ries have swirled around the twin mur­ders – the bodies re­cov­ered a day apart from the same house – a book-sell­ing book writ­ten and even a Bol­ly­wood film made on the in­ci­dent that grabbed head­lines for months and riv­eted the na­tion.

On Thurs­day, the Al­la­habad high court ac­quit­ted the Tal­wars in the mur­der of their 14-year-old teenage daugh­ter and Hem­raj, bring­ing the spot­light back on the same old ques­tion: who killed Aarushi?

The Delhi Pub­lic School stu­dent was found with her throat slit and stab wounds to her head, in her bed­room on May 14, 2008. The im­me­di­ate sus­pect was Hem­raj, from Nepal, who was miss­ing.

But a day later, his body was found on the ter­race of the Tal­war’s apart­ment block.

Ut­tar Pradesh po­lice, which probed the crime ini­tially, then shifted fo­cus to the Tal­wars, the only other peo­ple present in the house on the night of the in­ci­dent.

Po­lice were ac­cused of shoddy in­ves­ti­ga­tion as they re­port­edly failed to col­lect cru­cial ev­i­dence and did not even seal the crime scene, the Tal­wars’ home.

Po­lice then ar­rested Ra­jesh on charges of killing his daugh­ter in a fit of rage when he al­legedly saw her in an “ob­jec­tion­able po­si­tion” with Hem­raj. “This is a classic ex­am­ple of a case where the crime scene, which pro­vides vi­tal clues to take the in­ves­ti­ga­tion for­ward, was tram­pled with,” said for­mer CBI of­fi­cial NR Wasan.

The CBI’s first in­ves­ti­ga­tion team, led by UP cadre IPS of­fi­cer Arun Ku­mar, how­ever, gave Ra­jesh a clean chit and ac­cused the Tal­wars’ as­sis­tant Kr­ishna and two ser­vants -- Raj Ku­mar and Vi­jay Man­dal.

It, how­ever, failed to prove its case and there were ac­cu­sa­tions the agency was try­ing to frame them by forc­ing con­fes­sions.

The sec­ond twist came when Ash­wani Ku­mar took over as the CBI di­rec­tor in July, 2008.

Sources said he was not con­vinced with the first team’s as­sess­ment re­con­sti­tuted the team with a man­date to look afresh at ev­ery as­pect of the case.

The new probe led by AGL Kaul com­pleted its in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2010 and con­cluded that Tal­war and wife should be chargesheeted in the case.

The agency’s lawyers also con­curred with it, but still the top of­fi­cials were not con­vinced that they had enough ev­i­dence to prove charges in court.

The probe team’s ar­gu­ment was, no out­sider vis­ited the Tal­wars when the mur­ders hap­pened and the oth­ers were in­no­cent. It, how­ever, claimed the crime scene was heav­ily dressed up, lead­ing to sus­pi­cion it was the do­ing of Aarushi’s par­ents.

“But still there was no clinch­ing ev­i­dence to show it were the Tal­wars who mur­dered their daugh­ter and Hem­raj,” said a for­mer CBI of­fi­cer want­ing to re­main anony­mous.

“But we had no eye­wit­ness. Mur­der weapon was also miss­ing. There was no vis­i­ble mo­tive in sight for the par­ents to kill their daugh­ter and ser­vant. There­fore de­spite, the par­ents be­ing prime sus­pect, the clo­sure re­port was filed.”

The clo­sure re­port was filed when AP Singh took over from Ash­wani Ku­mar as the CBI di­rec­tor in Novem­ber 2010.

But the Ghazi­abad court found enough ev­i­dence in the clo­sure re­port to con­vert it into a chargesheet and sum­moned the Tal­wars in the case. Af­ter trial, the court found both of them guilty in the case on Novem­ber 25, 2013. A day later they were sen­tenced for life.

And nearly four years later, the higher court ac­quit­ted them , giv­ing the Tal­wars the “ben­e­fit of doubt” in the face of in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

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