The Allahabad High Court on Thursday acquitted Nupur and Rajesh Talwar in the 2008 murder of their teenage daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj, saying that neither the circumstances nor the evidence was enough to hold them guilty.
The verdict ends, at least for now, the nine-year ordeal of the Noida couple who were sentenced to life by a Ghaziabad CBI court on November 28, 2013 for the double murder that not only transfixed but also shook the nation with its element of filicide.
The Talwars, who are both dentists, are expected to be freed on Friday from Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail after the completion of paperwork. The CBI did not immediately say if it would appeal the High Court verdict. It said it would study the order and decide the future course of action. Its counsel Anurag Khanna however, indicated that the investigating agency may appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdict.
“I am grateful to the judiciary for the verdict,” said BG Chitnis, Nupur Talwar’s father and a former Group Captain in the Indian Air Force. “They have really suffered. They are emotionally drained. At my age it was very trying to see my daughter behind bars,” he told reporters.
“It has been an exhausting journey for us. We are really grateful to the High Court for having aquitted and ending the injustice meted out to them,” said Vandana Talwar, an aunt of Aarushi who was 14 when she was killed.
A division bench comprising justices BK Narayana and AK Mishra upheld the Talwars’ appeal against the CBI court verdict, holding that the circumstances of the case and the evidence on record did not established a chain showing their involvement in the murders of Aarushi and Hemraj. Pronouncing the verdict in a packed court room, the bench said that it is a fit case where benefit of doubt can be given to the appellants and set aside the judgement of the CBI court convicting the Talwars who were arrested in May 2008.
The CBI court had relied on circumstantial evidence to convict the couple in the absence of any motive. In his judgement, Additional Sessions Judge Shyam Lal has cited judgements of the Supreme Court to say that the mere fact that the prosecution had failed to “translate that mental disposition of the accused into evidence does not mean that no such mental condition existed in the mind of the assailant.”
He said, “In a case of circumstantial evidence motive does not have extreme significance. In the absence of motive, the conviction based on circumstantial evidence can in principle me made.”
Dadhiram Maurya, jailor of the Dasna prison where the Talwars are lodged, said the couple felt they have got justice. "After having breakfast they were praying. Their schedule was normal. She said they got justice today and had tears of joy. Any person after spending this amount of jail (time) will feel happy to get freedom. So they were happy after they were told about the news,” he said.
Lawyer Rebecca John, who was part of Talwars’ legal team, said she was relieved by the judgement. She claimed the whole case was based on “innuendos” and would “not have carried through”. John hoped that the Talwars, who have been in media spotlight for over nine years, will be allowed privacy after their release from the jail.
Aarushi was found dead inside her room in the Talwars’ Noida residence with her throat slit in May 2008. The suspicion initially fell on 45-year-old Hemraj, who at the time was missing. But his body was recovered from the terrace of the house a day later. As the Uttar Pradesh Police drew flak over shoddy investigation into the case which was making national headlines, the then chief minister Mayawati recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.