As Talwars go home, questions loom over CBI and CBI courts

There cannot be any closure to the Arushi Talwar case till corrective steps are taken to ensure that such miscarriage of justice never takes place again

Photo by Sunil Saxena/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sunil Saxena/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Uttam Sengupta

Journalist and TV anchor Nalini Singh had the most intriguing tale to tell when I was looking into the Arushi Talwar murder case for Outlook magazine. Singh, sister of Arun Shourie, ran a Nepali TV channel from Delhi and vividly remembered a CBI Inspector visiting her office a few weeks after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had taken over the investigation.

The CBI Inspector wanted to verify if the channel had played some Nepali film songs on the night Arushi was killed. What was the programme on air around or after midnight ? Under the law, TV channels are required to retain footage for a certain period and she was able to produce the footage and confirm that yes, the songs in question were indeed played on that fateful night around midnight.

Curious, she asked why the CBI was interested in the programme and was told that the three assistants of the Talwars, including Krishna and Rajkumar, had confessed that they had gathered in the servant’s quarter of Hemraj on that night for a drinking binge. The TV was on and they hummed the popular film songs while having their drink. The CBI Inspector told Nalini Singh that they had confessed that they had killed Hemraj who objected to one of them making lewd comments about the teenaged girl. While what followed next was not disclosed to Singh, the impression given was that the trio had killed Arushi as well.

She was, therefore, surprised when a few months down the line, the CBI team was disbanded and the central agency began leaking that the parents were the prime suspects. Nalini Singh, a feisty lady if there was one, remembered that shortly thereafter she had buttonholed the then CBI director at a party and asked what made the agency to gloss over its earlier findings. Ashwini Kumar, she said, was evasive but said firmly that the parents indeed were the killers.

The investigation was still going on and yet the CBI director was convinced about the identity of the killers. Not surprisingly, the investigators would have known about the thinking of the CBI director and possibly went out of their way to build up a case against the parents.

The Investigating Officer of the CBI, late AGL Kaul, was particularly single-minded and vicious, showed the documents. He is the one who ‘swapped’ the forensic report on the pillow cover recovered from one of the Assistant’s room. There were other instances when he appeared to be going overboard. Why would he do it ?

The question kept nagging me and during one of my meetings with the Talwars I blurted it out. Why would the CBI Inspector try to fix them, I asked. They looked blankly at me. Dr Rajesh Talwar made it obvious that he did not find the question worth replying. It was Nupur Talwar who suddenly darted a look at her husband before saying in a rush, “ I had once called him a liar before others and he had reacted violently.” So, that was a possible reason for Kaul to do what he did, I thought.

Even otherwise, the CBI’s theory made little sense. Assuming Dr Talwar did see Hemraj and his daughter in a compromising position and flew into a rage, what would have been his next move ? The CBI and the CBI court wanted everyone to believe that Dr Talwar used a surgical equipment and/ or a golf club to kill both. Besides the fact that Hemraj’s blood was not found in Arushi’s room, how much time would it have taken Dr Talwar to fetch the surgical equipment or the golf club ? And would Hemraj and Arushi have waited for him to return and kill them ?

It was a bizarre theory that challenged common sense. But large sections of the media, particularly TV channels, disgraced themselves by not raising even obvious doubts.

Finally, Narco tests are not admissible as evidence. But the record shows that all the three assistants were subjected to the tests by the CBI in three different cities by three different teams. Bengaluru and Ahmedabad were two of the cities, I recall. And yet, all three gave similar replies to identical questions. But this was neither acted upon nor did the CBI ever draw attention to it.

As the Talwars walk out of Dasna jail in Ghaziabad, the CBI, the media and the judiciary have plenty of soul-searching to do. The behaviour of the CBI judge in particular needs to be explored further. While CBI courts were set up to fast track trials, effectively these courts often behave as extensions of the central agency. I will not be surprised if some of them accept the help of the CBI in getting railway reservations, a vehicle or accommodation at guesthouses. In return they might be willing to be influenced by the agency’s line of investigation.

In an unjust world, blessed are they who secure justice. Life for Talwars will never be the same. But let us hope they will be able to begin life afresh.

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Published: 16 Oct 2017, 1:21 PM