Aarushi Talwar murder case: Verdict an eye-opener why India's criminal justice system needs an urgent overhaul
This verdict is a sad metaphor for the current state of the Indian criminal justice system.
A bench of justices BK Narayana and AK Mishra acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case. The Bench arrived at the judgment, giving the benefit of doubt to the Talwar duo.
The appeal to the high court involved major arguments on the motive for the murder, which is a little unusual. The motive in criminal cases is not relevant for determining the guilt of the accused, it is only relevant to decide the quantum of punishment.
The case previously saw three full investigations. One was by the Uttar Pradesh Police and the other two by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Only the second investigation exonerated the couple and the rest two charged them with double murder. It was indeed strange that the third investigation, which was the second one by CBI had charged the Talwar duo for the double murder when it was only them who had opposed the filing of the closure report by the same agency, in its initial investigation, before the Allahabad High Court and also the Supreme Court.
The criminal justice system of India is an accused-centred process and not a victim-centred one. This means that the focus of the judicial process is only the determination of the guilt of the accused and not finding the actual perpetrator of the criminal act. This means that after this verdict, unless and until there is again a fresh investigation, the murderer of Aarushi and Hemraj will remain unknown.
The investigation in this case also involved modern forensic techniques like narco-analysis tests, etc. Unfortunately, the evidence produced by such techniques remains controversial in the eyes of the Indian courts and consequently, the court refused to admit such evidence.
This verdict is a sad metaphor for the current state of the Indian criminal justice system too. Where in a very high-profile case, after three investigations, of which two were done by the nation’s premier investigative agency CBI, and almost a decade later, the perpetrator of the offence remains at large.
It certainly requires some bit of reflection as to why the state with all its might, including both the Central and state investigative agencies, couldn't solve a double murder case, or the investigation remained shoddy and their charges didn’t cut any ice with the courts.
It’s high time the government undertook a serious reform in the criminal justice system and start by doing away some aspects of the adversarial judicial system, which makes the process accused centric. Malimath Committee in 2003 recommended incorporation of some aspects of an inquisitorial system to make the system more efficient. Such recommendations definitely deserve a thought in light of the sad situation of the system today.
The author is a research fellow with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @raghavwrong
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