Murder of Arushi Remains an Enigmatic Mystery

There are some criminal cases, which remain deeply etched in the public memory for a long time to come. These cases evoke enormous interest and shake the conscience of the public. People feel fear, horror, brutality, mechanism, conspiracy, and execution associated with such criminal cases. In criminal law, two components are necessary to prove the guilt of an accused person. One is mens rea i.e. intention behind the crime and the other is actus reus i.e. execution of the crime.

This must be proved in the court of law by the evidence which may be circumstantial or based on the last scene theory or supported by the statements of indubitable eyewitnesses. In all such pieces of evidence, the link must be made complete. However, if there is any doubt in completing the missing link then the benefit of it always goes to the accused because the criminal law follows the principle that even if hundred criminal go scot free but an innocent person should not be punished.

There are many cases criminal cases which have been perpetuated in the public memory by the media coverage. For example, the Nanavati case of Bombay (it was not a Mumbai then), which shook the entire nation. A decorated Naval Officer Nanavati had murdered a businessman Prem Ahuja, who was in an illicit relationship with his wife Sylvia. Many films have been made and books have been written on this sensational murder case.
Another horrendous case of rape and murder recent times was that of a young para-medical girl, Nirbhya, in the year 2012. That generated a tsunami of anger throughout the country and the Government was forced to enact laws ensuring the safety and security of women and also quick disposal of such cases to meet the ends of justice to some extent.
In the same category falls the murder mystery of Arushi, a 14-year-old teenager of NOIDA. Her parents, Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar are Dentists. It attracted the attention of the whole country because of the wide and sustained media coverage. Apart from Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, their servant Hemraj was also living in the flat. On the fateful day of 15 May, the family had dined together.

After some time Aarushi went to sleep. On the morning of the 16th May 2008, Bharti Mandal, a maidservant rang the doorbell but when no one responded from inside she went up the staircase leading to the terrace of the flat to fetch the bucket and mop kept there. While coming down she found that no one had opened the door, she put her hand on the outer grill door, but it did not open, then she again pressed the doorbell on which Dr Nupur Talwar opened the innermost wooden door and started talking to her. She asked Bharti Mandal where had Hemraj gone, to which she expressed her ignorance. Dr Nupur Talwar then told her that Hemraj must have gone to fetch milk from mother dairy after locking the inner iron mesh door from outside and she told her to wait till Hemraj returned. Thereupon Bharti Mandal asked Dr Nupur Talwar to give her key so that she may enter the house after unlocking the inner iron mesh door on which Dr Nupur Talwar told her to go to the ground level and she would throw the key to her from the balcony. While Bharati Mandal was going down Dr Nupur Talwar picked up a cordless phone and dialled Hemraj’s mobile no. The call got connected but got disconnected after a couple of seconds. When Bharti Mandal came down Dr Nupur Talwar told her that the door was not locked but only latched from outside.
Thereafter Bharti Mandal climbed up the staircase and when she put her hand on the outermost iron grill door it opened and thereafter she unlatched the middle iron mesh door and stood there. She heard Dr Rajesh Talwar and Dr Nupur Talwar weeping on which she suspected that some thief had broken into the house. When Bharti Mandal inquired from her why she was weeping, Dr Nupur Talwar asked her to come inside and see what had happened. Then Bharti Mandal came with Dr Nupur Talwar inside the flat and stood outside Aarushi’s room Dr Nupur Talwar pulled the bed sheet with which her daughter was covered in which she saw that her throat was slit. She became frightened. Dr Nupur Talwar told her to see what Hemraj had done. It appears until that time no one was aware that Hemraj was also lying dead on the terrace.
Within hours of the discovery of Aarushi’s body, the flat was swarming with people, the policemen, the press, family friends, curious strangers descended on the Talwar’s home.
The Police were informed, which arrived at the scene of an incident and started the investigation. Arushi was found dead in her bed with signs of sharp-edged weapons on her neck. The needle of suspicion revolved around Hemraj, who after committing the murder of their daughter was missing but when his body also found, then the mystery got further deepen. The Allahabad High Court found the chain of circumstances to be grossly incomplete and broken and said that ‘the circumstances of the case do not lead to the irresistible conclusion that the appellants alone are the perpetrators of crime in question and on the evidence adduced in this case certainly two views are possible; one pointing to the guilt of the appellants; and the other to their innocence and in view of the principles expounded by the Apex Court, we propose to adopt the view which is favourable to the appellants.’ We hold that the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the accused beyond all reasonable doubts.’ Therefore, they stand acquitted.

The scathing attack on the trial judge by the High Court is certainly quite a new trend in the judgment and beyond any justification. In its diatribe against the trial judge, the High Court has said that ‘the learned trial Judge has prejudged things in his own fashion, drawn the conclusion by embarking on erroneous analogy conjecturing to the brim on apparent facts telling a different story propelled by vitriolic reasoning. Thus, basing the finding of conviction without caring to see that it is a case based on circumstantial evidence things cannot be presumed and stuffed in a manner like the present one by adhering to self-created postulates then roam inside the circle with all fanciful whim. The learned trial Judge took evidence and the circumstances of the case for granted and tried to solve it like a mathematical puzzle when one solves a given question and then takes something for granted in order to solve that puzzle and question. But the point is that the learned trial Judge cannot act like a maths teacher who is solving a mathematical question by analogy after taking the certain figure for granted. The learned trial Judge has aberrated and by dint of fallacious analogy and reasoning has surprisingly assumed fictional animation of the incident as to what actually took place inside and outside the Flat, and like a film Director, he has tried to thrust coherence amongst facts inalienably scattered here and there.’
Certainly, such recalcitrant mindset in interpreting facts vis-a-vis circumstances of the case and evaluation of evidence ought to have been shunned. Consideration of merit should be based only on evidence and circumstances apparent on the record, crystallizing the truth in substance and alluding to the certainty of the decision, backed up by reasonable analogy and scrutiny by the trial Judge as that alone would always be the best approach while deciding a criminal trial, said the High Court.
However, the million-dollar question remains that who killed Arushi? Will this enigma be ever solved?