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Opinion » Comment

Posted at: Oct 14, 2017, 12:37 AM; last updated: Oct 14, 2017, 12:37 AM (IST)

Lessons from Aarushi case

Vishavjeet Chaudhary
Perhaps we will never know who killed Aarushi and Hemraj. This case will, however, always serve as a chilling reminder of how things went wrong and how drastically lives were affected.
Lessons from Aarushi case
A file photo of Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar.

Vishavjeet Chaudhary

Earlier this week, the Allahabad High Court overturned the Ghaziabad lower court's judgment and pronounced the Talwars not guilty of the 2008 murder of their daughter and domestic help, Hemraj. The trial was one that caught the fancy of the Indian media and for weeks, all we saw flashing on our screens were sensational visuals of the Talwars and Aarushi. Before anything conclusive could be established, we had been made to make up our minds. Worse still, before the investigation could have been completed, the media was given a free run of the crime scene. This carried on for a while — narco analysis of the accused were repeatedly televised. Finally, we were told that a possible culprit could have been her parents. The media was again to draw conclusions — it could have been an honour killing. 

Finally the trial commenced, and the Talwars were convicted of murder. This was four years ago, in 2013. Since then, there has been a book and a film — both to some extent vindicating the Talwars. Finally, the High Court has acquitted them. It is, as of now, not clear if an appeal will be filed. The case has, however, during the course of almost a decade, taught many lessons to those involved in the criminal justice system. 

Role of investigating agencies

First, the role of the investigating agencies. Investigation is the first step in a criminal justice process. With cutting edge technology and techniques, the investigative agencies have a variety of tools at their disposal. In this case however, multiple things went wrong at this stage. The crime scene was not properly cordoned off. It was also not searched properly — to the extent that a dead body was missed in the first round of search. It is imperative that we as a country spend on training our personnel and procuring equipment to investigate effectively. Additionally we need to ensure our investigators are independent as well as accountable. 

Role of media

Second, while the media plays an indispensable role in reflecting and forming public opinion, sensationalist reporting and passing decisive judgements go against the ethics of journalism. It was careless and wreckless to report from the house. Additionally, the media openly cast imputations- on the characters- not only the possible accused and suspects but also the minor deceased. What also was extremely alarming was the media's insatiable hunger for detail. The family was constantly under cameras. The parents were interviewed over and over again. This formed the public perception in ways that weren't the healthiest. 

Time lost

The third issue is the amount of time it has taken for this decision to come out. The Talwars, who are acquitted now, have already spent at least four years of their life behind bars. This will never come back to them. The appeal alone took remarkably long. What is even sadder is that this is one of many cases, and not the worst hit ones by delays. It is not uncommon for cases to run into decades. We need to introspect and look at innovative ways to make justice quicker. This is in the best interest of all parties. This will also ensure that justice and institutions of justice do not lose their credibility in the society. 

What happened on the fateful night of May 2008 is still a mystery. Perhaps we will never know who killed Aarushi and Hemraj. This case will, however, always serve as a chilling reminder of how things went wrong and how drastically lives were affected. We do, however need to learn from our mistakes and make the criminal justice system as robust as possible. For now, we all simply have to acknowledge, rather in a state of unease that justice has not been served to the deceased.  


The writer is Asst Professor at OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat

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