Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the parents of Aarushi, have just walked out of Dasna jail. A lot has been written about the obnoxious conduct of various institutions that saw them spend four-and-a-half years in jail for the Aarushi-Hemraj murder. But few know that the much-maligned VVIP culture of India had a big hand in how the sad saga unfolded.
The case bared the most hideous face of urban Indian society. It undermined the trust that is the linchpin of any society: the bond between parents and progeny. The co-existence of the urban middle class and the underdogs--domestic help such as Hemraj--who too was murdered the same night as Aarushi, was also marked by suspicion and distrust. And it exposed the unsafe world we create around our family in this fast-paced urban life.
The media displayed its propensity for salacious gossip over facts, fairness and responsibility. The judiciary too played to the gallery through Judge Shyam Lal, who made a mockery of the law by convicting Aarushi's parents on the slimmest of circumstantial evidence.
But no single institution came off looking more silly or more diminished than the police establishment. The botch-up began on day one, almost immediately after Aarushi's body was discovered in her bed. I have interacted with top police officers overseeing the investigation and know from my many discussions with them that the botch-up happened on day one. And all that the investigators -- both UP police and the CBI -- were doing subsequently was trying to contrive all kinds of explanations to cover their tracks.
The fundamental problem with the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case was that the UP police was eager to keep Noida quiet on that fateful day of 16 May, 2008, because it was busy with two VVIP visits. The discovery of Aarushi’s body coincided with visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who was paying a courtesy visit on CPM stalwart Harkishan Singh Surjeet who was hospitalised in Noida) and a separate visit by the state's chief minister Mayawati. For an overstretched Noida police and its officers, these two VVIP visits were more important than a meticulous investigation of the crime scene. It looked like an open and shut case in which the domestic help, Hemraj, had murdered Aarushi and escaped.
In their eagerness to serve the VVIPs, the Noida police was least interested in looking for leads to verify the version of Aarushi's parents. Because they readily presumed Hemraj's culpability, they dealt with the murder of a 14-year-old girl in her house, in her bed as just another crime that could be handled after they successfully see off the two VVIPs. So the police facilitated the parents to wash off the scene of crime and cremate Aarushi as fast as they can in order to deflect the media's attention. In the process, there was no attempt to collect crucial evidence like bedsheets and clothes of the victim in the belief that the murder is an open and shut case.
All that they were interested in was to make a quick exit which they did even as Hemraj's body lay on the terrace undiscovered. The next day, while Aarushi’s parents were away at Haridwar to perform rituals, an ex-police officer discovered Hemraj’s body on the terrace. The case now took a twist that would badly tie the UP police up in knots.
A day after the discovery of Hemraj’s body, I met IG (Meerut zone) Gurudarshan Singh and SSP Noida Satish Ganesh at a Noida guest house to understand why the crime scene investigation was so shoddy. There was vaginal fluid discharge on Aarushi's body. It was a no-brainer that it needed to be probed. So, I specifically asked Satish Ganesh if he had taken into account the possibility of rape or physical torture. His answer laid bare all that was wrong with the investigation. He said, without blinking: “It was not required. The mind cannot distinguish excruciating pain from pleasure."
In effect what Ganesh was telling me was this. Aarushi's brain confused the extreme pain from the slitting of the throat with "pleasure" leading to the fluid discharge. It was not clear from which authoritative scientific / forensic journal Ganesh drew his conclusion but even if that were so, to not collect swabs for forensic analysis was a crime in itself.
Having goofed up so badly on day one, Gurudarshan Singh, an IPS officer of 1984 batch, was easily convinced with the theory of the involvement of Aarushi's parents that his investigators put up. One, it would take the heat off the police by covering up their goof ups. Second, with parents themselves in the dock, it would be difficult for them to pursue the case. The safest police investigation methodology in such cases is to turn the needle of suspicion on to close relatives and the UP police has developed it into a fine art. In my own experience as a crime reporter in UP, I have seen an additional SP framing a son who just returned to find his mother murdered.
The shoddy manner of investigation was further vitiated by the uncouth description of the investigation by Gurudarshan Singh in his press conference which was marred by a series of gaffes. It was indeed a matter of relief when the case was handed over to the CBI for further probe. For the first time the investigation was conducted in a professional manner by the then joint director Arun Kumar. Known for his meticulous and professional approach, Kumar personally supervised the investigation, carried out narco tests on parents and some of Hemraj’s friends. Subsequently, his team exonerated the parents of the crime and suspected some Nepali friends of Hemraj and apprehended them. But Kumar had a run-in with top CBI bosses and was divested of the investigation. The CBI did not frame charges which led to release of the suspects arrested by Kumar's team.
The investigation was now handed over to another outstanding officer Javeed Ahmed who was joint director of CBI in Lucknow. In his meticulous scrutiny of evidence, he realized that the investigation had come to a dead end. He persuaded his team to file a closure report in the CBI court for want of evidence. It was a clever move to shift the onus to the courts which directed the CBI to charge Aarushi's parents. This gave the CBI investigators an easy escape route to pursue the UP police’s theory of the involvement of Aarushi's parents with renewed vigour. They substantially relied on hearsay and gossips to marshal as evidence which was badly vitiated on the first day itself.
The worst part of this investigation was deliberate leaks by the CBI that amounted to character-assassination of not only the parents but also of dead Aarushi and Hemraj. This was clearly done to rattle those interested in knowing the truth. The media became purveyor of unsubstantiated gossip around the Talwar family completely unrelated to crime. The CBI court seemed to be so influenced by the media’s narrative that it created a fictionalised account of the double murder and convicted. In strict legal parlance, the Aarushi-Hemraj murder was a classic case of res judicata; a case pre-judged even before the trial begins.
Though the Allahabad High court has partially restored the prestige of the judiciary by making critical observations on the CBI court, the same cannot be held true for the media and the police. They played the most irresponsible role in peddling narratives that emanated from the basest social impulses. Whether guilty or not, the Talwar couple having spent nearly four and a half years in Dasna jail have literally died many deaths not on the basis of evidence but on whims and fancy of public institutions. This is manifestation of a social malaise that has taken control of society in urban India. It calls for deep introspection.
Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 08:03 AM