Aarushi-Hemraj murder: If Rajesh & Nupur Talwar are innocent, so are the servants
On 12 October, the Allahabad High Court delivered its judgment on the Aarushi and Hemraj murder case and acquitted parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. Fourteen-year-old Arushi and the Talwars' house-help Hemraj Banjade were brutally murdered in their Jal Vayu Vihar residence in Noida few days before Aarushi's 15th birthday.
With the judgment, the familiar chorus of 'servants are the culprits' or at least they are 'primary suspects', has returned.
The court perhaps has rightly acquitted the parents after a severely botched-up investigation, which gave them a benefit of doubt in absence of conclusive evidence.
But is there enough material to pin the blame on the servants? Remember, they have been subjected to custodial interrogation and narco-analysis and still no evidence was found against them, as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the court on multiple occasions.
An impression is being put forth that the role of the servants were never investigated even as the media and the investigating agency demonised the parents.
‘So who murdered Aarushi Talwar? Just turn to page 227’ – screams the headline of an opinion piece in the Times of India, which again tries to brazenly accuse the servants.
It is perhaps a mere coincidence that the holding company of the publication also produced a feature film on the incident, which depicted the facts of the case in favour of the then accused (the parents) and managed to change public opinion. After the Talwars’ acquittal, the makers have gone to the extent of claiming vindication.
Meanwhile, the “Page 227” referred in the headline is a reference to the HC judgment where it deals with a particular pillow-cover recovered from one of the accused, Krishna Thadarai’s, room.
The curious case of the pillow cover
For the defence and everyone else convinced about the innocence of the parents and involvement of the servants, it was the ‘clinching evidence’ even before the High Court said so. The pillow-cover allegedly proved that the parents were not involved and that Krishna, the help at Talwars' clinic, was present at the scene of crime and could have been the perpetrator.
In the judgment, the judges have surprisingly also gone with this theory even as they seem to have been very liberal in their debunking of other evidence put forth by the prosecuting agency, the CBI in this case.
“The report of the CDFD Hyderabad Ext. Ka51 pertaining to the purple colour pillow of Krishna was a piece of clinching evidence on record indicating that Krishna was present in the appellants' flat when Hemraj was murdered and it is on account of the aforesaid fact that Hemraj blood got embossed on the hair of Krishna which in turn got embossed on his purple colour pillow-cover which was admittedly seized from the Krishna's premises,” Justice J Balkrishna Narayana wrote in the judgment.
The judges say that – “the report of CDFD Hyderabad Ext. Ka51 pertaining to the purple colour pillow belonging to Krishna corroborated and lent credibility to the confession made by Krishna before CBI officials after his arrest on 13.06.2008, in addition to the details of his (221) complexity in various scientific tests that he underwent a fact admitted to the CBI.”
A confessional statement in custody is generally not considered to be the finest piece of evidence and that scientific tests including narco analysis, have little value in the eyes of the law. Therefore, shouldn't this piece of ‘clinching evidence’ also have been subjected to the same kind of criticism that has been applied to all other evidence in the case?
Once the CBI took over the case, it recovered a pillow and a pillow cover from Hemraj’s room. (It was initially said to have been recovered from Aarushi’s room but the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) scientist BK Mahapatra, during his cross-examination, in the trial said it was not from Aarushi but Hemraj’s room.)
The pillow and the pillow cover had some specks of blood which, as CFSL Delhi said, matched with Hemraj. The CBI, subsequently, had also seized a purple pillow cover from Krishna’s room. The CFSL said it could not extract any DNA from it.
However, both of these were later sent to Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) Hyderabad where, according to the CBI version, a mix-up happened due to a typographical error and description of pillow and pillow-cover. The one seized from Hemraj's room got interchanged with the one seized from Krishna’s room.
CDFD issued a clarification letter. This was contested by the defence then.
However, all the courts, including the Supreme Court, were convinced that this clarification, at that stage of the trial, was not illegal.
In fact, Justice Narayana, who pronounced the judgment, in an order on a revision petition on the issue in 2011 had accepted CBI’s explanation and noted – “From the perusal of record and the submissions made by Sri Jafri which have been noted hereinabove it is apparent that the DNA of Hemraj was not found on Krishna's pillow.”
But in the judgment, on the appeal made by the Talwars, all judges including Justice Narayana went into great detail to debunk the typographical error explanation and said that there was connivance between CDFD Hyderabad and the CBI's investigating officer. They also pointed out how the clarification letter was sought three years later, besides other charges.
The first CBI team that was working on the theory that the servants were the killers, had not mentioned this pillow cover as clinching evidence to nail Krishna. They had depended just on the narco-test, his confession and the subsequent recovery of the khukri.
The way the first team worked, of course, was never questioned by Rajesh or Nupur Talwar.
The way the presence of Hemraj's DNA on this purple pillow cover is being floated as clinching evidence of the servants' involvement raises some basic questions.
The defence’s assertion has been that at the time of murders, which according to reports happened between 12 AM and 1 AM, Krishna, Raj Kumar, the house-help at Talwar’s family friend Anita Durrani’s house, and Vijay Mandal, the house-help in one of the neighbouring houses, was present in the house and that they are involved in killing both Aarushi and Hemraj.
The assertion is based on the test reports and the confessional statements given to the first CBI team which was later junked by the agency as not being credible enough leading to the transfer of the case to a new CBI team.
If both Aarushi and Hemraj were killed by the same person, around the same time of the night, how is it that only Hemraj’s DNA travelled to Krishna’s pillow through his hair as the High Court judges note in the judgment?
Is there a scientific report which details how Hemraj's blood got embossed on Krishna's hair? Or was there an eye-witnesses who brought this fact to the notice of the high court judges?
If all three were party to the crime and present in the house as the parents slept in the adjoining room, how is it that the DNA was only found on Krishna’s pillow cover and not on Raj Kumar or Vijay Mandal's?
How is it that the DNA was only found on the pillow cover and not on the khukri, which was claimed to be the murder weapon, and miraculously recovered from Krishna’s house?
The forensic report by CFSL Delhi did not find any human blood on the khukri. Moreover, it was found to be blunt.
Krishna was among the first people to be picked up by the UP Police, as soon as the news of Arushi's murder came to its knowledge on the morning of 16 May 2008. He was found to be sleeping in the servant quarters metres away from the Talwar residence in Jal Vayu Vihar when the police got to him.
Krishna remained in alleged illegal detention, CBI custody and judicial custody, for long till the servants were given a clean chit by the agency.
The initial assertion also raises a host of other questions as far as the servants' involvement in concerned:
Why were their fingerprints not found on the bottles of alcohol including a bottle of Sula wine recovered from the servants' room, where they were allegedly drinking?
Why were their fingerprints not found at any other place in the premises of the Jalvayu Vihar apartment where the murder took place?
The defence has just been arguing all this time that the fingerprints of the parents were not found. The fact that those of the servants' were not found either has not been a part of the narrative.
The fingerprints recovered from the scene of the crime, including the handprint on the terrace, did not match with the prints of the five suspects – the parents and the three servants. The bloodied handprint on the terrace wall, seen when Hemraj's body was recovered, was too big to be that of the three servants' according to the investigators.
And if the pillow cover is indeed the clinching evidence, what happens to the eye-witness testimonies and phone call records which do not suggest that the three servants were present at the scene of crime?
To buttress the claim of their presence, the HC judges and the defence continue to base their assertion on the 'scientific tests' that the servants went through as the premise of their allegations rest on the fact that the three servants were present and should have been the prime suspects. And the tests along with the pillow cover, is enough evidence.
But, CBI investigator AGL Kaul, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, reproduced parts of the narco analysis to prove that it was inconclusive and unreliable. Moreover, Krishna had moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to complain that the narco-test was forced and his confession was taken under duress. He has also allegedly said that he was forced to confess in lieu of a shorter sentence.
Discrepancies in the timeline
However, as far as the narco-tests are concerned, the sequence of events as told by all the servants, do not add up.
For example, Krishna, according to an excerpt of the narco report, claimed that the murder was committed by Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal with a khukri. Krishna 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. He also said that Aarushi’s phone was sent to Nepal.
Raj Kumar said Aarushi was murdered with a khukri and that he didn’t know about or possess any khukri. He said first he raped her after which Krishna raped her. He says when all of them entered the room, Aarushi woke up, saw them and screamed. Krishna hit her with a hammer. He said he took away Aarushi's Nokia phone and sold it. Then he went on to say the khukri was brought by Krishna and thrown outside, near a park after the murder.
He later says that Aarushi was sleeping when they entered the room and Krishna hit her with a hammer. She screamed. Later, all three raped her when she was unconscious. Hemraj, who opened the door of the terrace, was murdered. Krishna locked it and took the keys with him. The next day, Rajkumar said something different that Krishna, after a drink, wanted to go to Aarushi’s room and was stopped by Hemraj. He managed to get to her room and then tried to impose himself on her, she must have woken up and he killed her and came out of the room with blood-soaked clothes. He then rushed Hemraj and Raj Kumar to the terrace where Hemraj was killed while he was trying to open the lock.
Mandal statement was even more strange as he spoke of only seeing Krishna with a Khukri in Hemraj’s room. He then left for the garage. Some minutes later he saw Raj Kumar walking towards the Talwars’ house. However, after he left the house, he said Hemraj, Krishna and Raj Kumar had a quarrel over Aarushi. He was called to 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 even 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.
Clearly, these are three different stories, which did not match with the evidence on record. For example Aarushi’s phone was recovered from Noida and not sent to Nepal. All the data on it was found to be deleted.
What about the Talwars’ narco analysis?
Moreover, while the narco test of the servants has been the talk of the town especially after portions of it appeared online, the one conducted on the parents has largely gone unnoticed.
The CBI had told the Supreme Court that it did not exonerate the parents in their scientific tests. The CBI claimed the polygraph test done on Rajesh Talwar found his responses untruthful on his claim that he was sleeping the entire night of the crime and only got to know of the murder in the morning. CBI claimed that the polygraph report showed that even Nupur Talwar was not truthful when she was claimed that she got to know of the incident only in the morning and that she did not hear any sound that night.
CBI said that the forensic analysis of the brain signatures did not support the Talwars’ claim that they did not hide Aarushi’s cell phone or that they did not commit the murder.
Moreover, Rajesh Talwar in his narco talks about how Hemraj had gone mad and that he wanted to fire him. And while describing the sound that night he said how “he thought the police had come”. Talwar spoke about the two golf clubs and how he examined Aarushi’s body in an emotionless and clinical manner.
The CBI’s affidavit claimed that Nupur Talwar gave other details during her narco analysis. She said that when Rajesh saw the bottle of Ballantine (a whiskey), he said that something had happened to Aarushi. She also talks about 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, according to the CBI version of the tests, also repeated many times that the mobile phone of Aarushi was at home till it was found.
These details point out how narco test reports are being selectively used, that too in the absence of any other substantial evidence, to prove the presence of the servants at the time of crime or their involvement in the ghastly murders.
To say three servants are murder suspects on the loose without a shred of credible evidence is a self-absolving upper middle class delusion.