Monday, July 27, 2015

Bulletin: Rajesh and Nupur Talwar: India; Extraordinary revelations from investigative reporter Avirook Sen's book on the 'Aarushi' case: The judge's son was helping him write his judgment on the case (a bizarre, almost unthinkable happening in a judicial system based on the rule of law - which by itself makes the case cry out for appeal and the immediate release of the couple from prison (HL) - and the shocking, unthinkable revelation that they (this father/son team) were writing the judgment (convicting the Talwars of murder) - even before the defence team's closing arguments had begun. (Yet another reason for promptly ending this disgraceful parody of justice - apart from their innocence. HL): (Must, Must Read. HL); Shree Paradkar: Toronto Star;

"I’ve written about this case in the Star before, laying out the reasons my family believes these are wrongful convictions. Chiefly, I cited lack of credible evidence, lack of an established motive and the absence of murder weapons. The case had been investigated by the powerful Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is like India’s FBI. My cousins had fought a trial where the prosecutors argued in court that the defence not be allowed to call any witnesses at all. Experts gave testimonies substantially different from their original statements to the police (which were on record). Investigators had brushed off evidence that pointed to someone else’s involvement in the murders as “typographical error.” Now comes a book that tells us that the judge and his son were writing the judgment even before the defence team’s closing arguments had begun. Witnesses speak of being pressured to change their statements. The prosecutors’ forensic expert tells the author that his testimony that the parents discovered Aarushi with the cook in her bedroom at night, and murdered both, was just an opinion. “The court took it as fact.” When the author confronts the judge about inventing evidence in the judgment, he is told to “let bygones be bygones.”.........The Aarushi-Hemraj murder judgment was the judge’s last; he retired five days after delivering it. He lives in the northern Indian city of Allahabad, and is setting up a practice with his son Ashutosh Yadav, who is a criminal lawyer. The judged had shunned all media after the trial — until he spoke to Sen. “I travelled to Allahabad, walked into his chamber and wouldn’t go away till he agreed he would grant me an interview,” Sen says. “I had no idea he would open up the way he did, and then there was the unexpected event of his son joining the conversation.” “I just went quiet,” Sen tells me. “I took in the importance of what he had said. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And when I composed myself, I understood that I was on to something.” The judgment was 210 pages, and although much of it was cut and pasted off other judgments, I was interested in how long it took to write. Ashutosh Yadav, who was extremely happy to have made his own contributions to the document, unwittingly let a secret out: ‘It took more than one month,’ he said. ‘So you had gone to Ghaziabad more than a month before to help out . . . ?’ ‘Yes, I was there,’ said Ashutosh. I took this information in, and did my best to appear deadpan. Because the facts were these: Judge Shyam Lal pronounced his judgment on 25 November 2013. Tanveer Ahmed Mir, counsel for the defence, began his final arguments on 24 October. Over the next two weeks he would argue on a total of 24 circumstances that he felt should lead to acquittal. Seven of these were major points. As Judge Shyam Lal and his son sat down to write the judgment, Mir had not even begun. A critical component of the case against my cousin was the allegation that Hemraj and Aarushi were in her bedroom that night. Investigators felt proving this would establish the motive for murder by the parents. The problem was there was no evidence Hemraj was in her room. His body was discovered a day after Aarushi’s — on the rooftop terrace. There was no evidence of sexual activity on Aarushi’s body. Hemraj’s blood was not in her room, although Aarushi’s was splattered all over the wall and the bed. His hair was not found in her room, nor was his DNA detected there. Then a forensic scientist testified during the trial that Hemraj’s pillow cover had been seized from her room, suggesting his presence there. When the defence team challenged this and when, over loud objections from prosecutors, the pillow cover was unsealed in court, the tag on it read that it had been seized from Hemraj’s own room. Sen was there when this happened. It’s also in the court records. Yet, Shyam Lal’s judgment puts Hemraj in Aarushi’s room by saying, “it becomes abundantly clear that Hemraj’s DNA has been found on the pillow cover which was recovered from the room of Aarushi.” The book details a cringe-inducing interaction between journalist and judge on this discrepancy. Here, the judge switches between Hindi and English. As I sat across him in his Allahabad home, I asked Shyam Lal whether he remembered the day in court when the CBI had to admit they had lied about Hemraj’s pillowcase being found in Aarushi’s room. ‘Yes, yes . . ..‘But in the judgment you returned a finding that the pillow cover was recovered from Aarushi’s room . . .’ Shyam Lal stiffened up slightly: ‘Dekhiye (Look), I cannot remember . . . har ek chhoti cheez aise . . .’ (every small thing). ‘But it was a very major thing,’ I went on. ‘Nahin (No), but what is the point of some controversy? I cannot remember . . . iss time pe . . .’ (at this time) ‘Sir, I find it very hard to believe that . . .’ ‘I cannot remember, I will not give you some hypothetical answer . . . Dekhiye, let bygones be bygones . . .’