Nearly five-and-a-half years after the sensational killings of teenager Aarushi Talwar and domestic help Hemraj, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court will on Monday pronounce its verdict whether her parents are guilty in the case which saw several twists and turns.
Special Judge S Lal, who is retiring soon, will give his decision after a 15-month-long trial of dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, both out on bail at present, on charges of murder and destruction of evidence in the killing of their 14-year-old daughter and servant on the intervening night of May 15-16, 2008 at their Jalvayu Vihar residence in Noida.
The probe followed a sine curve with varied theories from the investigating agencies—the Uttar Pradesh police and the CBI -- starting with father Rajesh Talwar being a suspect to the domestic servants of their friends and back to the dentist and his wife.
The case has been under intense media glare throughout and in August 2009 the Supreme Court restrained the media from sensational or scandalous reporting of the matter even as the Talwars accused the CBI of changing the course of investigation and purported leaks "damaging" their reputation.
The Uttar Pradesh police started its probe on the premise that Hemraj had killed Aarushi and escaped from the crime scene.
After discovery of Hemraj's body on the terrace of Talwars' flat next day i.e. on May 16, 2008, under dramatic circumstances, the needle of suspicion came on Rajesh who was taken into custody by the UP police
The sensational allegations made by the UP police that killer was none other than father of the teenager who acted in rage after finding Aarushi and Hemraj in "objectionable but not compromising" position accentuated media attention.
Amid growing media scrutiny, the then UP Chief Minister Mayawati handed over the case to the CBI. A CBI team under Joint Director Arun Kumar concluded that murders were allegedly committed by Krishna Thadarai -- help at Talwar's clinic, his friend Rajkumar-- a domestic servant with Praful and Anita Durrani who were Talwars' friends, and Vijay Mandal, driver of Talwars' neighbour.
These findings were trashed by the then CBI Director Ashwani Kumar who poked holes in the theory by underlining loopholes in the arguments given by Arun Kumar.
In September 2009, Kumar constituted a new team under Joint Director Javeed Ahmed and the then SP Neelabh Kishore to look into the case afresh with freedom to choose their team members for the case.
After nearly an year of intense probe, the new team cleared the servants and hinted at the role of Rajesh Talwar on the basis of circumstantial evidence.
The team filed a closure report in the case on December 29, 2010 citing "insufficient evidence" which was rejected by District Magistrate Priti Singh who ordered that Talwars should stand trial in the case.
"In such a case where the incident has happened inside home, visible evidence cannot be ignored," the court said. The Talwars had subsequently moved the Allahabad high court, which dismissed their pleas to quash the trial court summons and the proceedings initiated against them.
The couple then approached the apex court but were denied relief. The trial in the sensational murders started on June 11, 2012. The case went on for nearly one and a half year during which prosecution led by CBI's Deputy Legal Advisor R K Saini presented 39 witnesses to buttress their case while defence team presented seven witnesses.
On January 25, 2011, Rajesh was attacked by a youth with a meat cleaver on the Ghaziabad court premises. The action in court at times had shades of a Bollywood
drama when defence lawyer performed a demonstration of the attack of golf club on motorbike helmet and a dragging scene by putting a man in a bed sheet before the judge, claiming that dentist couple would have been unable to drag Hemraj's body to terrace.
The prosecution started its final arguments on October 10 summing up their case against Rajesh and Nupur running into nearly seven days while defence started its arguments on October 24 and completed it on November 12.
The CBI pressed the theory that during the night of murders there was no evidence of any forced entry and out of four people -- Aarushi, Hemraj, Rajesh and Nupur -- only two were alive hence circumstantial evidence pointed towards the dentist couple's involvement.
Saini strongly put forward circumstantial evidence -- no outsider entry, last scene theory, dressing of crime scene, destruction of evidence, tampering with Aarushi's body and cover up of Hemraj's body with cooler panel on the terrace -- which, he claimed, go against Talwar couple.
"Sudden and grave provocation theory, as told by the defence, is not our theory," Saini said adding that Rajesh Talwar with golf club in his hand entered Aarushi's room in order to commit the crime.
"The Talwars tried to mislead this court by creating sudden and grave provocation theory at the final stage of this case," Saini had told the court.
Quoting from the Talwars' then maid Bharti's statement, he argued when the maid reached for work on May 16, 2008 morning the outermost door was locked from "inside" which shows outsider could not be involved in the crime and it was the handiwork of someone who had been present in the house.Defence lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir countered it saying the latch of their iron gate was locked from "outside" and not from inside; besides, Hemraj's room was next to the main entrance of the flat, with one door opening into the flat which makes it clear that anyone can access the flat through his room.
During the final arguments, Saini told the court that postmortem doctors of both victims in their statements had said that the injuries seen on Aarushi's forehead and Hemraj's head are possible with the golf club.
Refuting the claims, Mir said if the CBI case is believed Hemraj's injuries by a golf club would have resulted in a pool of blood which was not the case at the crime scene.
"...but in this case no blood, no DNA, no biological fluid and no finger prints which belonged to Hemraj were found in the Aarushi's room and it suggests that Hemraj was not murdered in Aarushi's room," Mir had told the court.
The defence also claimed injuries inflicted with a golf club would have resulted in a "depressed fracture" where as the Aarushi's post-mortem reports show a line fracture.
A major set-back for the CBI was when one of its crucial witnesses Bharti, then maid for Talwars who was first to arrive at crime scene, told the court that she deposed in a way she was told.
The defence also alleged that CBI mishandled evidence of 12 golf clubs and golf clubs bag. Mir claimed that these were handed over to CBI inspector Richpal Singh on October 30, 2009, but a set of these golf clubs was tied with cloth in such a way that golf clubs' heads and handles remained naked which indicates mishandling on the part of the CBI.
The prosecution cited DNAs of Aarushi and Hemraj were found on Ballentine's scotch bottle seized by the Noida police on the morning of May 16, 2008.
"This indicates the involvement of the dentist couple in the murder. Suppose, if killers were outsiders, they would not have guts to consume whisky from the bottle after murdering Aarushi and Hemraj. As per the CBI's theory, Rajesh Talwar had consumed whisky from his Ballentine's scotch bottle during murders with small gaps," Saini had argued.
Arguing against this piece of evidence, Mir said when Ballentine's scotch bottle was sent for forensic examination, forensic expert AD Shah found five finger prints from the bottle, but these did not match with the dentist couple.
"Besides, 24 chance prints were also taken from different places such as the TV remote, walls, Aarushi's bedsheet, but no blood or DNA belonging to Hemraj was found from Talwars' residence," he argued.
The agency also depended on the alleged dressing up of crime scene and tampering of Aarushi's body by cleaning her private parts by Talwars.
On the other hand, Talwars' lawyer said that probe agency tutored maid Bharti to testify against the Talwars and also tampered with evidence to implicate Talwars in Aarushi-Hemraj murder case.
Saini in his concluding arguments had said that charges of murder with common intention and destruction of evidence are proved against Rajesh and Nupur Talwar besides Section 203 of the Indian Penal Code is also proved on Rajesh Talwar for registering a wrong first information report at Noida's Sector 20 police station.
On the other hand, Talwars' lawyer Mir had said that their arguments prove that Talwars have not committed the crime.