On October 12, while acquitting Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for the May 2008 murder of their daughter Aarushi, the Allahabad High Court said the “chain of circumstances” which led to their arrest “stood snapped the moment” the CBI failed to prove that the family’s L-32 flat in Noida’s Jalvayu Vihar had been locked from inside when Bharati Mandal, the family’s domestic help and CBI’s key witness, rang the door bell in the morning. This, the bench concluded, suggests a “strong possibility of outsiders having accessed” the flat and leaving after committing the double murder — of Aarushi and the Talwars’ full-time help, Hemraj — on the intervening night of May 15-16, 2008.
The CBI case and the 2013 judgment by the Ghaziabad trial court, which convicted the dentist couple, had relied heavily on the theory that there was no possibility of there being any outsiders in the flat on the night of the murder. The HC, however, went on to look at “key evidence”, which the CBI had filed in the Ghaziabad trial court, to find holes in the agency’s case against the Talwars.
The purple pillow cover
On June 14, 2008, the Noida Police, led by investigating officer Vijay Kumar and deputy superintendent of police R S Kuru, had raided the servant quarter of Flat No L-14 in Noida’s Jalvayu Vihar, where Rajesh Talwar’s compounder Krishna Thadarai stayed, and seized a purple pillow cover, along with a khukri. The pillow cover was then sent to the CBI’s Central Forensic Science Laboratory in New Delhi and to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad. The CDFD, in its report submitted on November 6, 2008, recorded the presence of Hemraj’s DNA on the purple pillow cover.
This, the HC said, was a “clinching piece of evidence” that indicated that Krishna was present in the flat when Hemraj was murdered. “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 Krishna’s premises,” the court noted.
The CBI had arrested Krishna, 34, a month after the murder, but he was released after the CBI filed a closure report in December 2010, citing “insufficient evidence” .
In the lower court, the CBI had argued that the CDFD had committed a “typographical error” by saying the purple pillow was Krishna’s, when in fact, it was Hemraj’s. The HC rejected this argument, instead pointing out that the “case receiving register”, in which exhibits received by the CDFD and CFSL are entered — something which “would have helped” the court decide as to whether a typographical mistake had occurred — was never “seized nor produced before the trial court, for reasons best known to the CBI”.
On March 24, 2011, three years after it submitted its report, CDFD issued a “clarificatory letter”, on the request of AGL Kaul, the last Investigation Officer in the case, stating that a “mistake had crept into the report”. The HC pointed out that Kaul had himself gone to the CDFD, submitting on March 17, 2011, “a cryptic” and “clearly ‘suggestive’” letter in which he said that “due to a typographical error, the description of the exhibits… have got interchanged”.
The HC said the “tenor of letter” and the consequent clarification from the CDFD puts “a serious shadow of doubt”.
The Talwars had argued before the HC that the pillow cover that the CBI seized from Krishna’s room was “tampered”. In support of their argument, the couple produced two photographs captured by the CBI — one of the pillow and the pillow cover seized from Hemraj’s room, and the other of the purple pillow cover seized from Krishna’s room. The CBI didn’t put these photographs on record as evidence before the trial court. This, in spite of the agency filing these photos to the Supreme Court as a counter-affidavit during a hearing of a review petition relating to the “typographical error” in the CDFD report.
The HC went on to compare these two sets of photos — from when the exhibits were opened in the trial court and the photos submitted to the Supreme Court — and found there were several things that didn’t add up.
What makes the photographs a key piece of evidence, the bench notes, is the testimony of Dr B K Mahapatra, the head of department of Biology at CFSL (CBI), that when the “packets containing pillow and pillow cover seized from the room of Hemraj (were) opened before the trial court, it was found to have been tampered.”
When the white packet containing the pillow and pillow cover from Hemraj’s room and the purple pillow cover from Krishna’s room was opened in the trial court, it had “CFSL 2009/E 1025” written on it. But the photographs filed before the Supreme Court said: “CFSL 2010/E 1025”. Besides, there was one missing detail in the photograph filed in the apex court: the words “Sl No.10”.
The High Court also pointed out that the laboratory at CDFD was the last to examine the exhibits and that they should have had CDFD’s seal. However, the bench said, records show that the exhibits “were in an open condition”.
Bottles, ‘depression’ on the bed
The 2013 judgment had said that there was “nothing to show that an outsider(s) came inside the house… after 9.30 pm”. While rebutting this, the HC pointed to three specific pieces of the puzzle — which had been put on record before the trial court — that showed the “possibility of presence of other persons.” One, the bottles recovered from Hemraj’s room: a Sula wine bottle that was quarter-filled, an empty bottle of Kingfisher beer, a green bottle with “some water material”.
Mahapatra of CFSL had deposed before the trial court that bloodstains were detected on the bottles. He also told the lower court that the Kingfisher beer bottle had generated a “partial male DNA profile” that matched the forensic evidence extracted from a “cotton thread seized from the right side of the door of the terrace” and “bloodstained palm print extracted from the outer wall of the terrace.” These didn’t match the Talwars’ DNA.
Two, the HC pointed to the testimony of Suresh Kumar Singla, the serologist, who in his report observed that the “human blood” on Hemraj’s bed sheet, his pillow and pillow cover, and the bloodstained handprint on the wall of the terrace were of the “AB” blood group — neither Rajesh’s nor Nupur’s.
Three, the HC has pointed to the contradictions in the statements recorded by KK Gautam, the then Noida DSP who had minutely examined Hemraj’s room. In his initial statement under Section 161 of the CrPC, he had stated that “three persons” might have sat on the bed “because of some depression on the mattress”. Further the toilet, he said, had “appeared…very dirty and was not flushed”, indicating that multiple people had used it. But while deposing in the trial court, Gautam denied having said so.
“Thus in view of the testimony of Dr B K Mahapatra, Suresh Kumar Singla and duly proved contradictions in the evidence of K K Gautam, the possibility of presence of other persons and the outsiders besides Hemraj having accessed the (Talwars’) apartment… cannot be ruled out,” the HC said.
Hemraj’s phone active in Punjab
Around 6 am on May 17, the day Aarushi was found murdered, a call went out from the landline at the Talwar residence to Hemraj’s mobile phone. In its final report, the CBI said the phone rang and the location was traced to Punjab but, as the HC notes, the agency did not place any “evidence in support of the aforesaid assertion.”
The HC pointed out that the “fact that Hemraj phone was active on 16.5.2008 and was in possession of someone else is another very strong circumstance” that indicates that “someone had entered the house of the appellants (on) the night of the incident and, after committing the double murder, had taken away the cell phone of Hemraj…”
Hemraj’s blood on pillow
The motive for the Talwars to allegedly commit the murders, according to the CBI, is “grave and sudden provocation” after they allegedly found their domestic help Hemraj in a compromising position with their daughter in her bedroom. To back this position, the prosecution had claimed that Hemraj’s blood was present on Aarushi’s pillow.
The court has said that Dr M S Dahiya, then director of the Institute of Forensic Science, Gujarat, had said in the crime scene report he prepared that the “blood of Hemraj was found on pillow recovered from Aarushi’s bedroom”. The court said Dahiya had based his report entirely on “his personal analysis” and the “incorrect information supplied to him” by Investigating Officer Kaul.
The HC pointed to Mahapatra’s testimony before the trial court, which states that on June 1, 2008, the CBI seized the “pillow along with cover” and that it “was actually seized from Hemraj’s room”, and that it was Superintendent of Police R S Dhankar, who in his forwarding letter, “erroneously stated that the… pillow and pillow cover were recovered from Aarushi’s bedroom.”
Also, the HC points out that the June 19 report, 2008, report of the Biology Division, CFSL, said that “DNA of Aarushi alone was found on (her) pillow, part of mattress and bedsheet seized from her room…”
Blood on the stairs
To back their case against the Talwars, the CBI had relied on their “post-crime conduct” — that, after killing Hemraj, they allegedly wrapped his body in a bedsheet and dragged it up the stairs to the terrace. Later, the CBI alleged, the couple wiped the bloodstains on the stairs. The HC, however, said the “dripping bloodstains” on the stairs are of when police brought down Hemraj’s body from the terrace.
The court said domestic help Bharti Mandal, first IO Datta Ram Naunaria, SP Mahesh Kumar Mishra, and Chuuni Lal, who had taken photographs of the crime scene, had not noticed “any bloodstains on the stairs or on the railing or on the floor of the flat or the terrace door or any marks of wiped out blood or blood spattered footprint”.
To back their ‘blood-on-the-stairs’ theory, the CBI had named Sanjay Chauhan, an official in the office of the Gautam Budh Nagar District Magistrate, and two neighbours of the Talwars — Dr Rajeev Kumar Varshney and Dr Rohit Kochar — as witnesses who had ‘seen’ the bloodstains. The agency had also said that ASP Akhilesh Kumar was present when they saw the bloodstains and that they recorded their statement before probe officer Yatish Chand Sharma. The HC noted that neither of these officials were called to depose in the trial court.
The HC also said it was strange that IO Kaul had got the statements of Varshney and Kochar recorded before the metropolitan magistrate at Karkardooma, New Delhi, and not before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad, who “alone had jurisdiction in the matter”.
The case of the FIR
The CBI had claimed that Rajesh Talwar had “deliberately” lodged a false FIR against Hemraj and “misdirected the Noida Police”. In his statement to the CBI, the HC notes, the first IO Datta Ram Naunaria had said that at 7.10 am on May 16, 2008, Rajesh Talwar had come down to the Noida Sector 20 Police Station to lodge the FIR.
The HC has now pointed to IO Naunaria’s statement before the trial court, in which he said he hadn’t seen Dr Talwar at the police station. The HC said, “…it is established that the FIR… was scribed by Dr Rajesh Talwar at his flat… which was subsequently lodged at police station by SHO Datta Ram Naunaria after 7:30 am”. That is, Rajesh Talwar didn’t go to the police station to file an FIR.
With inputs from Aditi Vatsa
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