On the night of 15 May 2008, Aarushi Talwar was murdered in her bed. She had sustained injuries from a possibly fatal blow to her forehead. Her throat was slit. 14-year-old Aarushi’s body was found by her parents the next morning. Two days later, the prime suspect, Hemraj Banjade, the Talwars’ domestic help, was found dead on the terrace.
On 12 October, the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict in the case, acquitting the Talwars of murder charges. This interview was first published on 31 July 2015 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives in light of the verdict.
16 May 2008, changed the lives of the Talwar family forever. Their only daughter, 13-year-old Aarushi was murdered. Two days later their servant, 45-year-old Hermraj, who they believed had killed Aarushi, was also found dead on the terrace. In a house where there were four people, the court ruled that since there was no evidence of outside intrusion, the two dead were killed by the two alive, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar.
From May 2008 till November 2013, the Talwars’ every move, mood, expression and statement was closely watched, dissected and talked about by the entire nation. The Aarushi-Hemraj murder became the most sensational crime to be covered by a 24/7 media.
It has been 18 months since the Talwars started serving their life sentence in the Dasna Jail, on the outskirts of Delhi. Rajesh now runs a fully organised dental clinic inside the jail, where Nupur also works occasionally.
Their lifeline is their family, friends and former patients who believe in their innocence. It is the goodwill of these people that continues to fund their legal battle. Senior lawyers like Rebecca John and Harish Salve have worked for the Talwars pro bono.
Public memory is short lived, the outrage even shorter. The majority in the media believes their stand was vindicated the day the Talwars were convicted. Public opinion was and is still largely against them. Though few have scanned the facts. Avirook Sen’s book, ‘Aarushi’ published by Penguin India, has attempted to do that, bringing the sensational murder mystery back into the public realm by questioning the CBI investigation and the conviction of the Talwars on the basis of evidence and due procedure.
The media played a crucial role in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder, highlighting and recreating every aspect of the crime and ‘revelations’ from the investigation. There were theories and morbid reconstructions of what may have happened in the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl that night, coupled with assumptions and allegations that the Talwars were one big unscrupulous, even ‘immoral’ family.
The CBI took over the case from the UP police on 31 May 2008. The findings of the first investigating team of the CBI suggested that the servants, Krishna, Vijay and Rajkumar, were guilty of the crime and arrested them. Rajesh Talwar was granted bail in July 2008 for the lack of evidence. Looking back, the then CBI Director Vijay Shanker in an interview to The Quint said, “Justice has not been delivered in the case”. Once Vijay Shanker retired and Ashwini Kumar took over, he constituted a new investigating team under AGL Kaul and the case turned on its head. Kaul was successful in securing a conviction.
When asked why the CBI would target the couple, Rajesh said that the investigation was so shoddy that they had to cover their tracks. Defense Counsel Tanveer Ahmad Mir in an interview to The Quint said, “There were skirmishes between Kaul and the Talwars, it became personal. So there was a deliberate, vindictive witch-hunt against them.” Dr Vaya, the forensic psychologist from Gujarat who conducted the narco tests, in an interview to The Quint, said, “The Talwars showed no deception in their tests, they are innocent.” She also claimed that she could not have given a ‘definite, conclusive’ clean chit to the servants.
The dentist couple had challenged the CBI closure report in 2010, asking for the investigation to go on. But this move hurt only them. Ghaziabad magistrate Preeti Singh issued summons to Rajesh and Nupur Talwar to stand trial in February 2012. Instead of being re-investigated, the case went to trial. The CBI produced 39 witnesses and the Talwars were convicted for murder.