Aarushi Murder case: Fiction as Fact
Hardnews takes a hard look at the Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj murder case investigations
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
In the past few months there has been a book and a film on the troubling and mysterious murder of a 14-year-old girl, Aarushi Talwar. Both, interestingly, tell one side of the story – that of the accused. Strangely, this narrative resurrects the trajectory of the probe initiated by a CBI investigator that was rejected by his organisation and by courts at all levels. Both the book and the film build on the middle class discomfort of parents killing their own daughter and seek to end their cognitive dissonance by blaming servants for the crime.
Hardnews has followed the Aarushi Talwar murder ever since it took place on that fateful night in May 2008 and is intrigued by the renewed assault by those who want to prove the Talwars’ innocence at all costs, even if it means ignoring or discrediting all evidence or judgment and orders by different courts. Seldom have the supporters of the convicted used the media – old and new – to de-legitimise and discredit the police and the judiciary in such a blatant manner. Despite their considerable resources, even the 2G or coal scam accused did not resort to such enterprise to show that the cause of justice had not been served in their case. In fact, many of them who lined up in front of the TV cameras after the court proceedings parroted their abiding faith in the judiciary. The Aarushi Talwar case, which has been the subject of fierce discussion on TV channels and drawing rooms for months, is being repackaged to reignite the debate on the circumstances in which the 14-year-old died even if it means using fiction as fact or showing up villains as heroes. Would these creative efforts lead to the re-opening of the case? Hardnews deconstructs the book and the film by revisiting the case and looks at all the evidence and court judgments that were ignored by the scriptwriters of the new narrative to ascertain whether the cause of truth has been served by them. Hardnews also spoke to other CBI officials who investigated this murder on what they thought of the recent developments.
Scene of Crime
L-32, Jal Vayu Vihar, Noida, the residence of Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. They live in their apartment with their 14-year-old daughter, Aarushi Talwar, and servant, Hemraj.
Sequence of Events
May 16, 2008: Around 6 am, Bharti Mandal, a maid who has come as a replacement to the Talwar household, rings the doorbell. It is Hemraj who usually answers the door. He doesn’t. After Bharti has rung the doorbell twice or thrice, Nupur Talwar turns up at the door. The apartment has three doors. Nupur Talwar says the middle one seems to be latched from outside, tells Bharti that she is throwing the key down from the balcony. In the meantime, she calls up on Hemraj’s phone. The call is picked up and disconnected in two seconds. She then proceeds to throw the key to Bharti. The maid walks up and unlocks the door to find both the parents weeping. They tell her to see what Hemraj has done. Bharti walks into Aarushi’s room, sees her body covered with a white sheet. The room is in perfect shape, even her school bag and everything else is lying untouched, suggesting dressing up of the scene. The girl’s pyjama string is found untied.
An hour later, at around 7.15 am, the parents inform the police. There is no sign of forced entry.
The parents tell the police that Hemraj has committed the murder.
Two of Dr Rajesh Talwar’s friends visit the apartment. One of them, Rajeev Varshney, goes up to the terrace by mistake, finds spots of blood on the handle of the door, comes back and tells the other friend, Rohit Kochar. They in turn ask Rajesh Talwar for the keys to the terrace. He climbs up a few stairs, then goes back into his flat, saying he doesn’t know anything about it. The police officers inspect the door and tell their subordinates to get it opened. They are told by Rajesh Talwar to search for Hemraj and not waste time.
A bottle of Ballantine is seen on the dining table. There is no glass. The bottle has blood smudges on it. Other friends, including Anita Durrani, said to be very close to the Talwars, arrive at the apartment. The Durrani servant, Raj Kumar, is also present at the Talwars’ residence. Raj Kumar, according to the Durranis, got done at 12.30 that night, once the family had finished dinner after getting back from the railway station. They told the police that the house was locked.
Aarushi’s body is sent for post-mortem. Rajesh Talwar’s brother, Dinesh Talwar, calls up Dr Dogra, chief of forensics at AIIMS, and makes him speak to Dr Dohare, the doctor performing the post-mortem. KK Gautam, an influential former policeman, visits the hospital on the insistence of another Talwar friend, Sushil Choudhary. Meanwhile, the UP police visit the house of Krishna Thadarai, Talwar’s compounder, who also resides in a smaller accommodation with his family in Jal Vayu Vihar. He is found sleeping in the house. His family says he was sleeping through the night and they didn’t see him going out. The post-mortem report, while it doesn’t talk of anything abnormal in her private parts, notes a white discharge. The injury which led to her death was caused by a blunt object while the throat was slit later with a sharp object. Her body is brought home in the evening and then taken for cremation. Her room is washed clean the same evening.
The Talwar couple leave for Haridwar the next morning to immerse the ashes. KK Gautam visits their apartment and gets the lock opened. Hemraj’s body is discovered, carefully concealed under a cooler panel. On the wall, there is a bloody handprint.
Three different theories
The UP police initially said that Rajesh Talwar killed daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj after he saw them in an ‘objectionable’ position. They couldn’t discover the murder weapon. The first CBI team worked on the theory that the murder was done by the servants who first raped and then killed her and since Hemraj was witness to it, he was taken to the terrace and killed. The second CBI team trashed the story of the servants being involved for want of evidence. Their investigation again pointed to the role of the parents. However, they filed a closure report which was not accepted by the trial court. The subsequent trial held the parents guilty of murder.
Some of the evidence suggesting parents’ involvement
Doctors who examined Aarushi’s body said the vaginal opening was unusually wide and that the cervix was visible.
The whitish discharge on her private parts suggested that the private parts had been washed. Similarly, there was a wet patch on the bedsheet.
The injury on her body could have been caused by the golf club which was later found in the loft.
Nupur Talwar couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer to how the key to Aarushi’s room was left on the door that night when she would lock up and keep it with her every night.
Aarushi’s room was found heavily dressed-up and so was the terrace where Hemraj’s body was found. Why would an outsider or even the servants care to dress up the crime scene after the murder?
The main door to the apartment was not latched. The middle door which was locked from outside could be accessed from the house through Hemraj’s room, meaning anyone inside the apartment, in this case the parents, could easily lock it from outside to confuse the investigators. The outermost door was later removed by the Talwars.
The scientific tests on the Talwars didn’t exonerate them.
Rajesh Talwar and Dinesh Talwar didn’t recognise the body of Hemraj.
The data on Aarushi’s phone was found deleted. The phone was recovered from Noida.
Phone records and witnesses proved that Krishna, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal were not present at the crime scene.
No trace of Hemraj’s blood was found on Aarushi’s bedsheet and pillow. No evidence to suggest that he was killed in Aarushi’s room. The CBI has not been able to prove the motive or the sequence of events which led to the murders.
The murder weapon has not been recovered till date. The golf club which was recovered later
doesn’t have any DNA traces left to prove that it was indeed used for the crime.
In the recently released Talvar, a film inspired by the case, the protagonist, Ashwini Kumar (based on CBI investigator Arun Kumar and played by actor Irrfan Khan), is shown taking a nap in a room that has a noisy air-conditioner. Outside, in the living room, another team is shown throwing utensils—spoons, glasses, even pots on the floor—while Kumar continues to sleep. To ‘disturb’ him further, a man starts to sing loudly, but this doesn’t bother Kumar.
This sequence in the film, co-produced by the country’s top media mogul, Vineet Jain, attempts to reconstruct the claims of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar (portrayed as the Tandon couple in the film) that they did not hear anything and were in deep slumber when their daughter was killed on the intervening night of May 15 and 16, 2008, on her bed. Bizarrely, her room was barely four metres away and separated by a plywood partition. The re-enactment was a key part of the Talwars’ defence that they did not know what was happening in their
Owning up this reconstruction and narrative, Arun Kumar, the UP-cadre Indian Police Service officer who led the first CBI team, told The Times of India after the release of the film and the book, Aarushi: “The sound test was not done just with a spoon. The whole process was done in a thorough and scientific manner. If it was not, the test could have been refuted and the findings of the test questioned. That has not been done. Until you counter the findings of the first team by declaring that those findings and the process were wrong – and if that is the case toh aap ko us samay jo investigator thaa uss key khilaaf kaarwaahi karni chahiye – but if you have not done that, then you can’t discount it either.”
Senior officials of the CBI who conducted the probe claim reality to be different from what is shown in the film. Arun Kumar is in fact parsimonious with facts. His aggressive assertion is attracting considerable mirth from fellow colleagues who point at the official memo of detailing the reconstruction which shows that only a fork was dropped on the floor to unsuccessfully wake up Kumar. “It did not make any sound.” That is the reason the prosecution discarded this “scientific test”. The court, too, was dismissive of this evidence.
This is just one of the many distortions that have been palmed off as fact in Talvar, the feature film directed by Meghna Gulzar.
It is not just after the book and the film that the role of the Talwars is being photoshopped. It began immediately after the matter was handed over to the CBI. The two media interventions are merely reviving those theories that failed to stand the scrutiny of either the trial court or the Supreme Court.
Even Avirook Sen’s book doesn’t take into cognisance some important events and facts. Together, Aarushi and Talvar ridicule that part of the probe that implicates the Talwars in the murder of their daughter. This narrative, which is horribly one-sided, only gives precedence to theories forwarded by the defence and has helped in building a campaign in favour of the Talwars. The release of the book followed by the film is not a coincidence. Take this important incident which doesn’t find mention in the book or the film.
Zaki Ahmed, an IPS officer, was forced to leave the CBI team led by Arun Kumar a few days into the probe. He confirmed that he went on a three-month leave in protest against a ‘guided investigation’. His superiors, sources claim, mocked his assertion that a golf club was the possible murder weapon. He was also not allowed to interrogate the Talwars despite having important leads.
The golf club issue has challenged the line of probe of Kumar from the time he took over. “Why would the alleged killer find the murder weapon and hand it over to investigators?” he asks in his newspaper interview. According to him, the golf clubs were never in the picture and they were subsequently handed over by Talwar’s friend, Ajay Chaddha, to the second CBI team that took over the investigation after the first team was removed. This assertion is again grossly misleading, sources claim.
“The golf clubs were in the picture from the very first day of investigation,” claims a member of the team that probed after Kumar was turfed out. He further says that the lead was not allowed to be pursued till the second team took over. In the closure report filed by the CBI in the court as they found inadequate evidence to proceed with trial, there is a mention of Rajesh Talwar who even under custodial investigation couldn’t specify the whereabouts of the golf clubs. A photo of Hemraj’s room taken by the CFSL showed only one golf club, contrary to the statement of Umesh, Talwar’s driver, who said that he had kept two golf clubs in Hemraj’s room when the Santro car had to be sent to the workshop for routine servicing. When the second CBI team’s AGL Kaul, who died of a heart attack later, asked for the golf club, Talwar handed over the entire kit of 12 clubs. When Rajesh Talwar was questioned on the missing golf club, promptly came a reply from Chaddha’s email that it was found from the loft during routine cleaning and that they had inspected it minutely to see if there was any blood on it. The two clubs were also found unusually cleaner than the rest. They also didn’t intimate the CBI about the discovery of the golf club till they were asked for it again, almost a year after the investigations commenced. Kumar’s team had willfully ignored the golf club theory as the possible weapon of murder despite the post-mortem reports which clearly spoke of a blunt weapon as the source of identical injuries on both bodies. The throats were slit later with a sharp object.
As a police officer who was part of the investigation put it: “It seems as if the first team constituted by the Director, CBI, Vijay Shankar, had pre-decided the course of the investigation in which the golf club wasn’t the only missing link. A bottle of Ballantine scotch was found in the living room, which had blood-smeared fingerprints on it, which would have made it easy to nab the killers. What happened to those fingerprints? Where did they disappear under the first CBI team’s watchful eyes?” he asks.
Kumar, in the same TOI interview, blames the UP police for contamination of the fingerprints on the bottle and says that it was picked up after four-five days once the media pointed it out. The seizure memo, however, claims that it was picked up the same day. “If Kumar knew that the bottle was picked up after four-five days and an ante-dated entry was made in the seizure memo, why did he not lodge a complaint against those police officers?” RK Saini, CBI prosecutor asks.
Similarly, there was a bloodied handprint on the terrace where Hemraj’s body was found,” an official who was part of the investigation then told this reporter. “That portion of the print was cut and taken by the CBI. What happened to it?” he asks. “The fingers on that (only the little finger and index finger were visible) handprint were longer than those of the three Nepalese servants whom the Kumar-led team framed in the case,” he says. The handprint was subjected to a DNA test and only Hemraj’s DNA was found, perhaps because of the presence of his blood.
After taking over the case, Kumar’s team took Rajesh Talwar in custody for three days. Sen’s book
reveals that Kumar wasn’t convinced about the UP police theory that the parents could have hidden Hemraj’s body and been sure it wouldn’t be discovered the same day.
Kumar claims that “the servants were not even quizzed by the UP police before we stepped in”. Another falsehood. Talwar’s employee at his Noida clinic, Krishna, was illegally in the custody of the UP police for several days since the day of the murder. Not just Krishna, even Bharti Mandal, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal were questioned by the UP police.
“There was not a single admissible piece of evidence against the Talwars then,” he said in his recent interview.
It seems the first CBI team had made up its mind that the Talwars had no role to play in the murder and they began to shoehorn the evidence. They were not subjected to a narco-analysis, unlike the servant, Krishna, who had to go through a lie-detector test and subsequently a narco within a week. Dr Vaya, who conducted the polygraph test at Ahmedabad, found Krishna to be “deceptive” and “manipulative”, thus providing Kumar’s team the killer from the rapacious underclass to feed the middle class frenzy.
The curious case of narco reports
Krishna, according to an excerpt of the narco report reproduced by several media outlets, said that the murder was committed by Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal with a khukri, a Nepalese knife. Krishna was given the weapon by one Sujata, a married woman with whom he was in a relationship. He said Raj Kumar fancied Aarushi and wanted to have sex with her. He said that they first killed Aarushi and then Hemraj because he got to know of the murder. The blood on the khukri was wiped off with a tissue which was flushed. The khukri was thrown outside the building. He also said that Aarushi’s phone was sent to Nepal.
Based on his narco report, the CBI sought extension of his remand which was granted by the court. In a subsequent raid at his house, the CBI team, which was till now struggling to establish the murder weapon, miraculously discovered a khukri, and that too with blood on it. Now all they needed was some corroboration of Krishna’s claims in the narco report so that this new theory was able to stand scrutiny.
KK Gautam was an influential police officer in the Ghaziabad and Noida region before he retired as the Deputy Superintendent. On the day of the murder, a Noida-based ophthalmologist, Sushil Choudhary, known to the Talwars, approached Gautam, who happened to be his patient. Choudhary sought his help in the matter, to which Gautam readily agreed. That day, according to his later statements to the CBI, he was asked to approach the doctors to ensure that the word ‘rape’ was omitted from Aarushi’s post-mortem report. The word, indeed, wasn’t there in the report which also said that no abnormality was detected on her private parts. It, however, noted a whitish discharge. The CBI claims to have call records which prove that the Talwars, Choudhary and Gautam were in touch throughout as the post-mortem was being performed.
A day after the murder, Gautam was present at the Jal Vayu Vihar residence of the Talwars. As the Talwars left for Haridwar to immerse Aarushi’s ashes in the Ganga, Gautam is said to have got to the terrace. It was then that the body of Hemraj was discovered, covered with a cooler panel, with a bedsheet hiding it from view from the neighbouring terrace. Interestingly, the Talwars were asked to come back immediately after the body was found. Curiously, both Rajesh and his brother, Dinesh, failed to identify the body of a servant who had been living with them for four years. The body was identified by one of Hemraj’s friends present there. Strangely, Dinesh, Rajesh and Nupur immediately left for Haridwar again.
That day, Gautam also claimed to have inspected Hemraj’s room.
As if to lend credence to Kumar’s theory of servants having committed the crime, Gautam gave a rather unusual statement to the CBI after the khukri theory came up. He claimed to have noticed that there was a depression on Hemraj’s mattress which showed that it was used by three people. Gautam also said in the statement that the toilet also showed that it was used by more than one person. How did Gautam arrive at this conclusion is not known. “Never in my life have I come across an investigator who looks at the mattress and says it was used by so many people,” a CBI official told this reporter. He also mentioned three glasses with two having some liquid in them.
Meanwhile, now the first CBI team had more fodder for its line of investigation.
Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal, who were arrested by the CBI after Krishna’s interrogation and the tests, were also subjected to similar narco analysis. Their narco reports differed from that of Krishna, but they had one binding thread – that the murder was committed with a khukri and that all of them were present in Hemraj’s room.
Raj Kumar, during his narco test, said that he didn’t know of any relations between Rajesh Talwar and Anita Durrani, something which was told to the police by Krishna earlier. When he got to Talwar’s house after a call by Hemraj, he saw Krishna was inside the room while Vijay was outside. He said Aarushi was murdered with a khukri and that he didn’t know about the khukri. Later, he said he and Krishna raped Aarushi and when later she woke up and screamed, Krishna hit her with a hammer. Then he went on to say the khukri was brought by Krishna and thrown outside near a park after the murder. Raj Kumar then mentioned how all three then raped her. Hemraj, who opened the door of the terrace, was murdered. Krishna locked it and took the keys with him.
A day later, he said something totally different. That Krishna, after a drink, wanted to go to Aarushi’s room and was prevented by Hemraj. On the pretext of getting water, he went to the dining area and managed to get into her room. He then tried to impose himself on her, she must have awakened and he killed her and came out of the room with blood-soaked clothes. Worried that the Talwars might wake up, he rushed Hemraj and Raj Kumar to the terrace where Hemraj was killed while he was trying to open the lock.
Mandal’s statement was contradictory throughout. He spoke of seeing Krishna with a khukri in Hemraj’s room when he got there after a call from Hemraj’s phone asking him to come over. When he arrived there he saw only Krishna and they discussed Aarushi. He then left for the garage. Some minutes later he saw Raj Kumar walking towards Talwar’s house. However, even after he left the house, he said Hemraj, Krishna and Raj Kumar had a quarrel over Aarushi. He was called on the terrace to meet them. And that he was aware that Aarushi was raped and then she was killed followed by Hemraj being killed. He said he wasn’t sure if all three raped her but says that Raj Kumar raped her first followed by Krishna. He said that he didn’t participate in the crime nor see them raping her.
The three of them had three different stories. The tests were clearly inconclusive. Moreover, the evidence with the CBI, the phone call records of Hemraj and Raj Kumar, suggests that they had not spoken to each other. Also, Krishna’s family had told the investigators that he was with them the whole night and the guards of the colony too hadn’t seen any movement. Moreover, why would a murderer keep the khukri said to be used in the crime in his own house? The khukri which was recovered from the house was blunt and, according to experts who examined it, not the weapon that was used to slit the victims’ throats. The CFSL also did not find any trace of human blood on it.
So was the khukri and the subsequent tests on the servants part of a plan to frame the servants?
The CBI officials who were part of the investigation believe this was indeed the case. “It was an easy way out for him. The criminal is a Nepali, so he would naturally have a khukri, is what it seems Kumar’s team thought of as a plan to push,” one official says. He pointed out how the complete CD of the tests was not provided to them by the CFSL. “A TV channel once aired the entire details of the narco tests of the servants. They still have the whole CD,” Saini says while adding that in that telecast it was evident that they were being beaten up and forced to speak things the investigators wanted them to say during the tests. Not just this, they were being asked leading questions and in the final report the answers that ‘fitted’ Arun Kumar’s theory were pushed. Krishna’s family had complained to the National Human Rights Commission that he was forced to undergo a narco and that a confession was beaten out of him. “The forensic evidence and testimonies of witnesses, including the security guard and the employer’s family, proved beyond doubt that they were at their homes that night. They were arrested on the basis of confessional statements. Is that admissible anywhere?” asks Saini.
Another CBI official who was part of the first CBI team clearly says that the khukri was planted by Kumar. “The blood on it could have been of any animal. The CFSL results also said no human blood was found on it,” he says. Planting of weapons is not a new practice. The investigations in the Ishrat Jehan encounter case in Gujarat showed how a squeaky clean Kalashnikov was planted on the bullet-riddled body of the young girl who the Gujarat police claimed was a Lashkar terrorist.
Meanwhile, armed with the narco test results and the khukri which was recovered from Krishna, Kumar’s best bet, according to Sen’s account, was if Vijay Mandal, who at best just saw the crime being committed according to Kumar’s theory, would turn an approver and confess. He worked on it for a couple of months till Ashwini Kumar took over as the new director. With the reputation of the agency at stake, and slim evidence to back up the theory of the servants being involved in the crime, Ashwini Kumar turned down the proposal to chargesheet the three servants.
The narco tests continue to be one of the major points of defence by the Talwars. While they filed a protest petition against the closure report filed by the CBI, they said that the CBI hadn’t done the investigation properly. They said the evidence collected post the leads of the narco should be admitted in court and that there is a possibility of the role of the servants. They gave the example of Krishna and said on the morning of the murder Hemraj’s phone was picked up and the tower location received from the telecom operator indicated that it was in Jal Vayu Vihar. Since Krishna lived in Jal Vayu Vihar, it is an indicator of his involvement. While Krishna, in his narco, said the phone was sent to Nepal, it was later tracked to Punjab. Interestingly, like Krishna, the Talwars were also present in Jal Vayu Vihar when Hemraj’s phone was picked up in the morning. And it could have been one of the ways to divert the attention of the police.
While the Talwars were relying heavily on the narco tests of the servants, they also pushed the idea that they themselves volunteered for the narco tests and that they were exonerated by the court. A counter affidavit filed by AGL Kaul in the Supreme Court on a petition filed by Nupur Talwar clearly states that the Talwars never volunteered and that their consent was sought before each test. For example, a consent was sought from them on December 7, 2009, but the matter went up to the CBI court which heard it on January 5, 2010, finally passing the order for the tests. In the intervening period, the Talwars had repeatedly asked for the application the CBI moved in the court for the narco tests, even when it was given to their lawyer on December 21, 2009, the day the CBI submitted the application after receiving an email granting conditional consent from Rajesh Talwar.
The affidavit also states that even though the CBI did not rely on the narco and other tests conducted on the servants and the parents since they were found unreliable and inconclusive, the tests on the Talwars didn’t exonerate them as is being projected. The CBI says that the polygraph test done on Rajesh Talwar found his responses untruthful with regard to his defence that the entire night of the incident he was sleeping and regarding the claim that he only got to know of the murder in the morning. Nupur Talwar’s polygraph report also found her not truthful on the questions regarding her knowing about the incident only on the morning of March 16, 2008 and her denial that she did not hear any sound that night.
Even the forensic analysis of the brain signatures did not support the Talwars’ claim that they neither hid the mobile phones nor committed the murders.
The affidavit also has interesting bits from Rajesh Talwar’s narco which have not found space in either the book or the film and have gone largely unnoticed. When he was asked about Hemraj, he showed resistance. Then he said that Hemraj had gone mad and that he wanted to remove him. While describing the sound that night he, interestingly, mentions that “he thought it must be the police which had come.” Talwar also spoke about the two golf clubs, examining Aarushi’s body in an emotionless and clinical manner and that Aarushi had kebabs for dinner which went contrary to Nupur Talwar’s claims that she just had tea.
Nupur Talwar’s narco analysis had some more details. She said that when Rajesh saw the bottle of scotch he said that something had happened to Aarushi. She also mentioned the curved injury being caused by a golf club and the improbability of the three servants committing the murder. Nupur also mentioned that when Rajesh saw the body in the morning his first reaction was to hold the neck of the body and put it in a presentable position. Nupur also repeated many times that the mobile phone of Aarushi was at home till it was found. The phone was indeed recovered from Noida by the second team of the CBI. During her narco analysis, Nupur also mentioned that her brother-in-law, Dinesh Talwar, had called Dr Sushil Choudhary to make sure that the post-mortem was ‘done well’. The narco also has details about her close friendship with Chaddha.
How the first CBI team and Dr Vaya, at the CFSL Ahmedabad were favouring the doctor couple is glaring.
While Dr Vaya told Sen that the lie-detector and brain mapping tests showed the Talwars to be innocent and the servants guilty, Kaul’s affidavit clearly shows how she was not speaking the truth. Dr Vaya also told the first CBI team that there was no need for a narco test on the Talwars since Rajesh Talwar was on anti-depressants and Nupur Talwar was trying to conceive. Arun Kumar had readily accepted Dr Vaya’s recommendation. The Talwars were only given a narco test once AGL Kaul’s team took over.
More blunders in the investigation
Meanwhile, the new Director, CBI, Ashwini Kumar, refused to allow the first CBI team to file a chargesheet just based on the narco analysis of the servants. This was a setback for the Arun Kumar-led probe team.
Another blunder happened with the vaginal swabs that were lying with the laboratory in Noida. They had already been sent once to the CFSL, Ahmedabad, where the forensic scientist found traces of Aarushi’s DNA along with the DNA of another female, suggesting contamination.
The same slides were later sent to the CDFD, Hyderabad, where the doctors failed to find any trace of Aarushi’s DNA. This suggested that the slides had been swapped when they were sent to Hyderabad. The needle of suspicion pointed to the CBI, and Arun Kumar who was heading the investigation. It was indeed the CBI which had sent the slides to Hyderabad. “The investigator responsible for the blunders should have been tried by the court for the way he tried to frame the servants in the case,” Saini says.
Meanwhile, the allegations of the slides being swapped was perhaps the final nail which forced Ashwini Kumar to finally transfer the case to Dehradun and hand it over to Joint Director Javeed Ahmed’s team. Deputy Superintendent AGL Kaul was made the investigating officer.
A new team takes over
Kaul was a maverick who would not listen to anyone. He got cracking as soon as he took over. With insufficent evidence available against either the servants or the doctor couple, Kaul’s team filed a closure report. The Talwars would have remained free if they had not protested against the report. It was the CBI judge, Preeti Singh, who, going into the merits of the evidence on record, ordered that both the parents, Nupur and Rajesh, stand trial for the murders. The magistrate also refused their plea to excuse them from appearing in person.
In February 2011, they moved the Allahabad High Court against the order. They drew the court’s attention to evidence on a pillow cover, with a blood mark, said to be recovered from Krishna’s room which had Hemraj’s DNA on it. A clarification was sought from the CBI which in turn approached the CDFD, Hyderabad. The forensic lab called it a typographical error and said that the labels on the pillows recovered from Hemraj’s and Krishna’s rooms had been interchanged by mistake. “Is it not strange, this typographical error which has become the centre of their campaign against the CBI and the so-called clinching evidence in their favour even when the matter has been resolved by the highest court which was satisfied with the CDFD’s clarification?” Saini asks. Although this is not the first time the Talwars took up the matter of DNA. Even earlier, they had been pressing the CBI to send crucial pieces of evidence for a touch DNA test. RajeshTalwar had no problem with the DNA tests when the investigation was being done under the supervision of the first team. When the second team took over, Talwar asked the CBI to send the exhibits to a foreign country for touch DNA. They also gave a list of some foreign labs which were contacted by the CBI. While three of them refused to perform the test, the lab of one James Clery in the UK agreed to it. The CBI was surprised to find out that Talwar was already in touch with this lab. “We contacted Interpol as well to find out if this lab had proper accreditation which turned out not the case,” a CBI official says. The CBI, after seeking opinion of other experts, who said that a touch DNA was not possible after the exhibits had been subjected to a conventional DNA test, decided not to go on a wild goose chase and concentrate on what they had in hand. “Why did the first CBI team not send the objects for a touch DNA in the very beginning, if it indeed thought it was a fool-proof technique?” an official asks.
What also ensued was demonising of AGL Kaul and his team for being partisan and biased against the parents since he developed a personal grudge against them. In a petition, they alleged that it wasn’t right for the CBI to transfer the case to a team headed by Javeed Ahmed, a police officer from the UP cadre; what was conveniently forgotten was that Arun Kumar and Vijay Shanker, the former CBI chief, were both from the UP cadre as well.
The doctor couple went up to the Supreme Court each time the trial court would pass an order they deemed problematic for them. The CBI had then also claimed that they were engaged in bench hunting. The Supreme Court didn’t appreciate it either. Dismissing a review petition filed by Nupur Talwar, Justice Khehar had come down heavily on the couple. He wrote in his order: “I have noticed that every single order passed by the magistrate, having any repercussion, is being assailed right up to this court.” He noted that the right to remedy under law is a right available to every citizen but such a right cannot extend to misuse of jurisdiction. The judge warned her that “…Any uncalled or frivolous proceedings initiated by the petitioner hereinafter, may evoke exemplary costs.”
So why is Arun kumar targetting the court and the CBI?
“From a supercop he became a flopcop in no time,” an officer who has been a part of the investigations told this reporter. The book and the film have largely relied on his account. However, it is not the first time a film has been made on his version of a crime or a criminal. “Remember Seher, which was produced with Sahara money?” asks a former CBI official. The film, based on the encounter of UP gangster Shri Prakash Shukla, had earned Arun Kumar the image of a supercop.
He also said that the second team went ahead with the parents’ theory even when an SP, who was part of the team, said that no case was made out against the Talwars. Kumar says the team had first drawn the conclusion and then embarked on collecting evidence.
“He needs to be hauled up under the All India Services rules for his conduct as an unbecoming public servant. He cannot shield the convicts by peddling half-lies. Did he say anything on the SP in his team who had raised a red flag that a case is not made out against the servants?” Saini asks.
Meanwhile, as a former CBI officer who was part of the investigations says, it’s a lost cause in the cacophony of this high-decibel campaign when the facts of the case are forgotten. “How do you challenge a narrative which is being peddled tirelessly through books, films and a friendly press?” he asks.