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A case of curious contradictions

On February 9, magistrate Preeti Singh of the Ghaziabad court charged Aarushi Talwar’s parents with murder and the destruction of evidence on the basis of the closure report of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Shohini Ghosh writes.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2011 10:35 IST

On February 9, magistrate Preeti Singh of the Ghaziabad court charged Aarushi Talwar’s parents with murder and the destruction of evidence on the basis of the closure report of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI could not gather enough evidence to chargesheet the Talwars but it left behind a trail of damaging insinuations that the media replayed without hesitation or conscience. Neither the closure report nor the magistrate’s orders were questioned for their glaring contradictions.

No one was at the scene of crime but everyone seems to know what happened. A deranged vigilante murderously assaults Rajesh Talwar as bloggers across the country applaud him. Even the closure report’s graphic reconstruction of events relies on a textual analysis of photographs. On January 13, writer-socialite Shobhaa De tweets: “Is it true Nupur is not Aaroshi’s (sic) biological mother? Will the CBI confirm? If Nupur isn’t her real mom, then who is?” Displaying a shockingly regressive view of parenting, De adds a spin to proliferating rumours. The element of reasonable doubt goes missing.

Aarushi was murdered on the night between May 15 and 16, 2008. On May 16, Sunil Dohre conducts a post-mortem on her body and concludes that apart from a “whitish discharge” nothing abnormal had been detected. He writes ‘NAD’ (Nothing Abnormal Detected) on the form and reiterates the same in his testimony to the first

CBI team that had taken charge on June 1, 2008.

However, Dohre’s testimony to the second CBI team that took charge in September 2009 is entirely different. He now claimed that her “hymen was ruptured”, had “an old tear” and her vaginal orifice was “unduly large”. Neither the magistrate nor the media asked why Dohre had not recorded the same in his post-mortem report. More importantly, Dohre’s revised account (page 13 of the CBI closure report) does not appear anywhere in his statement annexed to the same report. Nor do his statements before the two CBI teams mention anywhere that Aarushi’s uncle Dinesh Talwar asked rape not to be mentioned in the post-mortem report.

Claiming there is enough evidence to chargesheet the Talwars, the magistrate quotes the “unexplained router activity” in Aarushi’s room. Page 21 of the closure report says that according to the internet service provider, the router could only be switched ‘on’ and ‘off’ physically or during power cuts, and there were no power-cuts that night. But in the subsequent lines of the same paragraph the CBI writes: The “details of internet activity during day time on 16/05/2008 shows that the router was switched on and off on a number of occasions with long gaps even when the police and visitors were in the apartment. The opinion of experts is unable to explain this activity of router on 16th satisfactorily. Unexplained router activity on 16th makes this piece of evidence not fully reliable.” The magistrate quotes the first part but not the second.

It was widely reported that within two days of the murder, the Talwars had spent R25,000 painting the room to hide the bloodstains. Actually, the house was painted in July 2009 after taking due permission from the CBI. The painter confirmed this on several occasions including the time when a leading TV channel picked him up for questioning while posing as the CBI!

The report claims that the injuries to the victims were inflicted by a “small sharp weapon by a surgically trained person in a precise manner”. What is the basis for such a nuanced conclusion? The scalpel theory has long been rubbished by forensic expert Sudhir Gupta of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). “A scalpel is so small it can only cut the skin layer by layer but the wound on Aarushi’s neck was very deep” (The Indian Express, June 6, 2008). The blunt instrument the report asserts is Rajesh’s golf club. In which case, the Talwars must be daft to preserve the murder weapon in their house for over three years! Or keep insisting that the sophisticated Touch DNA test be done.

If, as the CBI claims, Rajesh Talwar killed two people with two separate instruments and dragged one body up the stairs to the terrace, surely the blood of both victims should be found on his clothes. Yet, it was only Aarushi’s blood that was found. The distraught father had hugged his child when he found her body in the morning. This, the CBI admits, is a “shortcoming” in their case.

The most intriguing part about the closure report is its refusal to consider the possibility of outsiders being implicated. It absolves the prime suspects (Krishna, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal) of the first CBI team on grounds that narcoanalysis is unreliable and by citing reasons that border on idle speculation (“No intruder would bother to dress the scene of crime”, “No intruder would hide the body of the victim.” etc.). Consequently, no leads are chased nor are their clothes seized for forensic examination.

The inconclusive closure report fails to find “a clear cut motive” for murder but weaves a subtextual narrative. Dohre’s revised opinion (which has more to do with Aarushi’s character than her body) invites us to imagine the “grave and sudden provocation” that would have spurred Rajesh to murder. But consider the findings of the first CBI team. When on July 11, 2008, Rajesh was released on an application moved by the CBI, it read: “During the investigation, the role of the accused Rajesh Talwar was thoroughly investigated regarding the aforesaid crime. The polygraph test, the psychological analysis test were conducted and no deception were found in the test reports. The clothes, shoes, finger, palm, footprints of Rajesh Talwar was forwarded to the [Central Forensic Science Laboratories], New Delhi, for examination and the results could not connect Rajesh Talwar with the crime.”

Should we not ask why findings of the first and second CBI teams are so contrary? Perhaps the time to ask new questions has arrived.

Shohini Ghosh is Sajjad Zaheer Professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

The views expressed by the author are personal