Aarushi-Hemraj case: The Allahabad High Court said circumstantial evidence against the Talwars was inconclusive and their guilt could not be sufficiently established
The Allahabad High Court today acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar of the murder of their teenage daughter Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj in 2008 saying they could not be held guilty on the basis of the evidence on record.
A division bench of Justice B K Narayana and Justice A K Mishra upheld the appeals by the Talwars against the Ghaziabad CBI court order sentencing them to life imprisonment on November 26, 2013.
Giving Talwars the “benefit of doubt,” the court ordered that the two be immediately released, saying that circumstantial evidence against them was found to be inconclusive and their guilt could not be sufficiently established. The Talwars, currently serving their sentence in Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail, are expected to walk free tomorrow.
The court said the prosecution also couldn’t establish its hypothesis that the parents, who were the “only” ones in the house at the time, were behind the murder. Truth was on our side, says family
Justice B K Narayana said: “The appeal is allowed and Nupur and Rajesh Talwar should be forthwith released because the entire evidence supplied by the prosecution counsel was not sufficient and the chain of circumstances could not be established.”
“We find that neither the circumstances for which the conclusion of guilt was sought have been fully established nor the same are consistent fully with the hypothesis of the prosecution. In our opinion, the circumstances are neither conclusive in nature nor they exclude any possible hypothesis except the one given by the prosecution,” the court said. Aarushi murder case verdict: Will approach Supreme Court, says Hemraj’s family
Justice Narayana further said, “Suspicion, however great, cannot take the place of proof.”
Citing a Supreme Court order of 1963, Justice Narayana said, “In special relevance to criminal cases where the guilt of the accused is sought to be established by circumstances…the apex court held that if the circumstances proved in the case are consistent either with the innocence of the accused or with his guilt, then the accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt. When it is held that such a fact is proved, then the question arises if such a fact leads to inference of his guilt on the part of the accused person or not, and even in this aspect, benefit of doubt must be given to the accused…and by the evidence produced in this case, two views are possible, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence.So they (Talwars) should be released forthwith.” For Aarushi’s friends, verdict provides closure
Aarushi Talwar was found murdered with her throat slit in her room in the Talwars’ Noida residence. The 45-year-old help Hemraj who was missing became one of the primary suspects until his body was recovered from the terrace of the house two days later. The investigation of the case was shifted to the CBI by the Mayawati government after allegations of a shoddy probe surfaced against UP police.
Tanveer Mir, counsel for the Talwars, thanking the court for upholding justice told The Indian Express: “We have restored honour to the 13-year-old girl and the help and established Aarushi’s parents were not guilty. The four were subject to intense character assassination, especially by the electronic media. We argued and established that there was, in fact, a possibility of outsiders having entered the house and committed the crimes unlike the prosecution’s hypothesis that the parents were the only two other people in the house which was locked from the inside.” At Jalvayu Vihar, residents don’t like the rewind
A.N. Mulla, the Additional Government Advocate for the State in the case said, “We will most probably appeal this case in the Supreme Court. But only the CBI can say what the next step will be.” CBI counsel Anurag Khanna did not answer calls or respond to messages.
The CBI court had in November 2013 held the couple guilty of killing their 14-year-old daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj. It sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for life, a fine of Rs 10,000 each for murder, rigorous imprisonment for five years and a fine of Rs 5,000 each for destruction of evidence, a one-year sentence of simple imprisonment for Rajesh Talwar and an additional fine of Rs 2,000 for filing a misleading FIR. All sentences were to run concurrently.
The CBI court, presided by Justice Additional Sessions Judge Shyam Lal, however, had rejected the CBI’s plea for maximum punishment of death penalty in 2014. Stating that the motive had been established, the court, in its 204-page order, listed 26 points which led it to its conclusion about the Talwars’ guilt.
It said that there was nothing to show that an outsider had entered the house on the night of the incident. It also pointed out that the internet remained active during the night, suggesting that at least one of the accused remained awake. Another point mentioned is that the injuries on the head and neck of both victims are similar and can be caused by a golf stick and surgical scalpel.
“The 2013 CBI court’s judgment reversed the burden of proof on the accused. The judgment said that if there were only four people in the house, the burden is on the two remaining to furnish explanations on the happenings of the night. This is in violation of Supreme Court’s directives in the Kali Ram versus the state of Himachal Pradesh,1973, wherein the Supreme Court said that in a murder case, the burden can never shift to the accused,” said Rajarshi Gupta, member of the Talwars’ counsel team.
Among the 26 points that Additional Sessions Judge Shyam Lal Yadav cited to convict the parents: the accused were seen with deceased last; their bedrooms are next to each other, the terrace door was locked from inside, Internet remained active on the night of the incident suggesting that at least one of the accused remained awake; there is nothing to show that an outsider(s) came in; the murderer would not muster courage to drink whisky knowing that the parents of the deceased are in the next room.
During the trial, the CBI argued that Rajesh Talwar saw Hemraj and Aarushi in a compromising position and attacked them in a fit of rage. The defence asked for leniency, arguing that the CBI’s case about the murder being committed under grave and sudden provocation meant that the death penalty could not be given.
The Talwars then appealed to the Allahabad High Court challenging the CBI court order.