A day after they were held guilty, a special CBI court on Tuesday sentenced dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar to life imprisonment for killing their daughter Aarushi Talwar and domestic help Hemraj Banjade five years ago.
Lawyers of the distraught couple, who were immediately taken back to the Dasna Jail in Ghaziabad district, said they would appeal in a higher court against the verdict.
Judge Shyam Lal rejected prosecution requests for the death penalty during a hearing on Tuesday, instead giving the couple life in jail for the killings that investigators allege were carried out with “clinical precision”.
Delivering the verdict at 4.30pm, the special CBI judge said: “They are not menace to society. So, death sentence is not warranted.” The ends of justice will be served by sentencing them to life imprisonment, he said in his four-page judgment.
The judge also sentenced the Talwars to five years in jail for destruction of evidence and Rajesh to an additional year in prison for giving false information to investigators.
A fine of Rs. 10,000 each was imposed on the couple on the murder charge, Rs. 5,000 each for destruction of evidence, and Rs. 2,000 on Rajesh for misleading police.
Nupur Talwar and Rajesh Talwar leave for the court hearing in Ghaziabad. (Sunil Saxena/ HT photo)
On Monday, the judge had convicted them for the murder of their daughter, saying they were “freaks” who “became the killer of their own progeny”.
“Life imprisonment is the basic sentence. We are satisfied with the judgment. The case has come to an end,” prosecutor RK Saini told a horde of reporters outside the court in Ghaziabad.
The couple’s jailing was the latest twist in the long-running case that has been awash with sexual rumours and allegations of police bungling and media bias.
Investigators said the Talwars killed Aarushi in a fit of rage after finding her with the 45-year-old servant in an “objectionable position”, suggesting the double murder was a so-called honour killing.
“The battle is not over, it has only begun. We will file an appeal and we are convinced that the conviction will be overturned,” defence lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Mir said.
Top criminal lawyer Rebecca John accused the CBI of incompetence and abuse of power. It first closed the investigation, citing lack of evidence — only to later reopen the case at the parents’ request and charge them with murder.
“For an agency that asked for a closure of the case to then ask for the death sentence, I think it is a grotesque abuse of power and it raises fundamental issues about our society in the administration of justice,” John told a TV channel.
“I think this very demand of the CBI (seeking the death penalty) is indicative of the witch-hunt that has taken place in this case,” she added.
Condolence meeting of Aarushi Talwar at sector 21 community centre in Noida. (Parivartan Sharma/ HT file photo)
The dentist couple’s failure to explain the murders stacked up as crucial circumstantial evidence, leading to their conviction. As there were no eyewitnesses, special CBI judge Shyam Lal heavily relied on a chain of circumstantial evidence in pronouncing the dentist couple guilty.
There were four people in the house and two were dead. In the absence of any evidence suggesting entry of outsiders, the needle of suspicion remained on them. During the 15-month trial, the CBI repeatedly highlighted this point and the court, too, asked pointed questions but the couple had no answers.
The court concluded that the murders were the outcome of ‘grave provocation’ caused to the Talwars after they found Banjade in a compromising position with their daughter.
The dressing up of the crime scene — Aarushi’s bedroom — and tampering with gave credence to the CBI theory that the two were killed after being found together.
Blood stains on the walls but spotless toys on the teenager’s bed that was close to the wall pointed that the crime scene had been interfered with. A wet patch on Aarushi’s bed indicated that the sheet was cleaned with water.
The court in its order mentioned that there was tacit understanding between the Talwars in cleaning of the apartment where the murders took place. The judgment also mentioned that the murders could not have been carried out by one person alone even as the judge gave 26 observations on the chain of events.