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Aarushi murder case verdict: Talwars’ acquittal is affirmation of justice

Can parents kill their only child? Can they be held guilty on the basis of evidence, which is not beyond reasonable doubt?

Written by Aditya Singla | Updated: October 13, 2017 7:59:47 am
Aarushi murder case, Aarushi talwar, Aarushi case verdict, rajesh talwar, nupur talwar, talwar acquitted, Aarushi hemraj murder, allahabad high court, CBI, Aarushi news, When the CBI failed to produce evidence in court, the Ghaziabad court granted bail to Dr Rajesh Talwar. (File photo)

On the intervening night of May 15-16, 2008, Aarushi Talwar, only child and daughter of the dentist couple Nupur and Rajesh Talwar was found dead in her bedroom, with her throat slit, at their residence in Noida.

A complaint was filed by the Talwars against their domestic help, Hemraj, who was missing from the house and suspected him of the murder. Mysteriously, a few days later, Hemraj’s decomposed body was found on the terrace of their house. The post-mortem report of the 14 year old girl stated that there was a sexual assault and when the police started investigating, they observed that the murder was done with surgical precision.

The Talwars, being doctors themselves came under suspicion and the investigation by the police was taken as a case of ‘honour killing’. Dr Rajesh Talwar was arrested for the double murder of his daughter, Aarushi and the domestic help, Hemraj.

The state government, owning to the tardy investigation and immense pressure surrounding the mysterious case, handed over the investigation of double murder to CBI. The investigation took a new twist, and the compounder of Dr Talwar, Krishna and his associates Vijay Mandal and Raj Kumar were arrested, and subjected to lie detector and narco-analysis.

When the CBI failed to produce evidence in court, the Ghaziabad court granted bail to Dr Rajesh Talwar.

Over two years later, in December 2010, the CBI, after conducting a narco-analysis test on the Talwars in January 2010, submitted a closure report stating that though Rajesh Talwar was the prime suspect, no chargesheet was being filed due to lack of evidence.However, the Ghaziabad Trial Court took cognizance of the report submitted by the CBI and charged the Talwars under Section 302 (murder) and Section 201 (destruction of evidence) of the IPC.

After a protracted legal battle challenging their summoning right upto the Supreme Court ensued, the Talwars finally had to face trial, which commenced five years after the sensational murder case. It was during trial that the CBI claimed that Aarushi and Hemraj were murdered by Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the parents of the 14 year old girl, because both of them were found in an objectionable and compromising position.

However, no forensic or material evidence was submitted to substantiate the claim. On the basis of circumstantial evidence the Talwar couple were convicted and sentenced to life for the double murder, by the trial court on November 26, 2013.

After four years, the much-awaited verdict and the fate of theTalwars has been decided by the division bench of the Allahabad High Court today, where the High Court reversed the verdict of the trial court. The dentist couple, who were serving their life imprisonment sentence were acquitted of murder on the grounds that the CBI had failed to prove that the parents were “guilty beyond any reasonable doubt” and therefore the Talwars could not be charged only on the basis of suspicion.

In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and the benefit of doubt, if any is given to the accused. The trial court relied on Section 106 and Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act which states ‘when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him’ and ‘The court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened, regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business, in their relation to the facts of the particular case.’

These provisions empower the court to presume the existence of any fact which it thinks is likely to have happened. In this process, the courts shall regard the common course of natural events, human conduct etc., in addition to the facts of the case.

However, Section 106 Evidence Act, is not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, but applies to cases where the prosecution has succeeded in proving facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts.

If the accused is unable to state any fact which is within his knowledge, then the court can use it as an additional link to support its claim.

It appears that the Allahabad High Court after analyzing the evidence has come to the conclusion that the prosecution has, in the first instance, failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore the resort to the special presumption under Section 106 and Section 114 Evidence Act, cannot be resorted to.

On the night of May 16, 2008 at the Talwar household where the murder took place, there were only four people — namely, AarushiTalwar, Dr Nupur Talwar, Dr Rajesh Talwar and the domestic help, Hemraj. Out of the four, two of them died that night and because there was no evidence showing any entry of the outsider in the house, the trial court relied upon the circumstances of the case and charged the parents for the murder of their own teenage daughter and the domestic help.

Can parents kill their only child? Can they be held guilty on the basis of evidence, which is not beyond reasonable doubt?

The parents have already lost their most precious gift, their daughter Aarushi and being charged for the death of their own daughter without substantial evidence would have been a miscarriage of justice.

The judgment passed by the Allahabad High Court today is surely of immense relief to the Talwar couple, who fought a long and tough battle against the legal system which lasted nine long years.

But even as the Talwar family and friends and their well-wishers celebrate the acquittal and the decision of the Allahabad high court, the big question that remains and begs to be answered at the end of the day – Who killed Aarushi and Hemraj?

Aditya Singla is an advocate practising at the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court. He tweets @adityasingla

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