There’s now a new twist to the sensational Aarushi double murder case. On January 6, the Supreme Court upheld the CBI special court ruling that Aarushi’s parents, the dentist couple—Nupur and Rajesh Talwar—should be tried for the murder of their daughter and domestic help Hemraj Banjade. Aarushi, 14, the only child of the Talwars, was killed in mysterious circumstances in her bedroom at their flat in Noida near Delhi on the night of May 15-16, 2008. The next day Hemraj’s body was found on the terrace of the building. Rajesh was arrested on May 23, ’08, for the murder but was later granted bail on July 11.
From then on, the case threw up several surprises—the domestic help and employees of the friends of the Talwars and even one of their neighbours were picked up as suspects. Krishna (Rajesh Talwar’s assistant), Rajkumar (domestic help of the Durranis, family friends of the Talwars) and a neighbour’s help, Vijay Mandal, were picked up as suspects, subjected to intense interrogation and later released after about three months in custody.
As the case dragged on, the CBI, which was handed the case on May 29, ’08, filed a closure report on December 29, ’10, before the special court after two-and-a-half years of investigation. Its plea was that there was insufficient evidence against all the suspects, including Rajesh Talwar. However, the CBI court, after going through the case papers, ordered a trial on February 9, 2011, of the parents and ruled that Nupur, who had till then not been a suspect, be also charged as an accomplice for dressing up the scene of the crime. Some evidence, perhaps, of this was the CBI’s comments in its closure report, points like how the bed and bedsheet where Aarushi’s body was found remained undisturbed despite the obvious use of violent force. The Talwars contested the special court’s order, but the SC upheld it last week. The Talwars have been given interim bail till February 4 when their trial begins.
After Rajesh Talwar’s arrest, a campaign had been launched by friends and well-wishers of the Talwars to prove the couple’s innocence. The jury is still out on their plea that Aarushi’s parents were being victimised and that there is no conclusive evidence. The truth, hopefully, will come out in the trial. Interestingly, while the Talwars had considerable public sympathy and media support, the lesser set of accused (read Krishna & co), who had to go through the trauma of being labelled “prime murder suspects”, were largely ignored.
File picture of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar at the CBI special court, Ghaziabad, Jan 2011
The life of the trio and their families have not been the same since. According to their lawyers and relatives they still live in fear of being arrested again. Two of them, Krishna and Rajkumar, who are Nepalese nationals, have fled to their home country. And no one knows the whereabouts of Mandal, who apparently went back to Jharkhand. He seems to have vanished without a trace.
Krishna’s niece Sunita, who works at a travel agency, recalls what her maternal uncle had told after being released from custody. “He told me that during interrogation, he was beaten incessantly. Many nights, the investigators did not let him sleep. Third-degree methods were used to pressurise him to confess. At one point, they even announced to the world that Krishna had admitted to the crime. We had no access to him. It was frightening. We always believed in the judiciary. Krishna is out currently but is struggling to get by.”
“It’s a sorry state of affairs for Krishna and his family. We’ll surely apply for compensation but it’s a long-drawn process.”
She also speaks of how other members of the family suffered and the price they had to pay. “My father Bheem Bahadur Thapa was employed with a factory in Noida then. As soon as Krishna was taken into custody by the CBI, my father lost his job. Obviously, they didn’t want to employ a murder suspect’s relative. He still doesn’t have a job. My other maternal uncle, Mohan, also suddenly became unemployed. Once Krishna was released, Krishna and Mohan uncle tried to set up a makeshift momo stall in south Delhi. They got space before a big shop. The business was going well till the shopkeeper got to know that they were related to someone who was a suspect in the Aarushi murder case. The shopkeeper refused to rent them space.” She says other family members have been subjected to similar discrimination.
As for Krishna, he went into a deep depression after the series of failures on every front. According to Sunita, he is still jobless, even in far away Nepal. Rajkumar has a relative in Noida—his brother-in-law Jeevan. But he is too scared to talk to the press.
Rajkumar’s lawyer D.S. Yadav says there was never any evidence against his client. As he puts it, “It’s all part of the court records that all three were ill-treated during the interrogation. They were grilled, subjected to narco-analysis and polygraph tests. Apparently, they confessed to the crime during the tests. However, it became difficult to corroborate the investigators’ claims about their involvement without any material evidence or witnesses. They had a traumatic time in custody.” S.C. Sharma, Krishna’s lawyer, adds, “The damage has been done but getting compensation is a long-drawn process. It’s a sorry state of affairs for Krishna and his family. We’ll surely be applying for compensation but....”
The CBI says their case against the three was based on the narco-analysis and lie detector tests. The agency still has to find corroborative evidence. Which is why the CBI investigations had earlier exonerated the trio as well as Rajesh Talwar. Also, there are several grey areas with much of the material evidence lost in the initial round of investigations carried out by the UP police. In the final analysis, if the Talwars are innocent, they should be given justice. But then there’s also the big question—who killed Aarushi and Hemraj?