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‘Talwars are not guilty, but neither are the servants’: 8 reads on the Aarushi-Hemraj verdict
By Professor  

The Allahabad High Court’s decision on October 12 to acquit Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the couple who had been convicted of murdering their daughter and domestic worker in 2008, brought back memories of the original coverage of the case that year. The Aarushi-Hemraj double murder provided fodder for some of the most sensational media coverage India has seen, with its resultant effect on the actual investigation and trial. The High Court’s acquittal prompted many commentators to go back to that coverage and what role it played in the case, while also bringing up the question of what lessons the police needs to learn in the aftermath of this decision.

  1. “Let us also rest the immoral justification that the media was not reporting salaciously, but was in fact only “doing its duty”. A media with a medieval operating system in which “honour killings”are a default provocation by a dentist couple to clobber their only “delinquent” child to death, deserves to be called the new despot of Fake News,” writes senior journalist Nalini Singh in the Indian Express.
  2. Former CBI director RK Raghavan, writing in the Hindu, says “I am worried about the possible impact of the tenor of the High Court judgment in the case on trial judges in the rest of the country. Is there a prospect that they may play it safe when confronted by similar circumstances?”
  3. “Questions are bound to be raised about what the Talwars were punished for? They lost their daughter, spent years behind bars, their careers were destroyed and now after coming out of prison, are looking at the challenge of leading the remainder of their lives,” writes Shashi Shekhar, editor-in-chief of Hindustan.
  4. “Once the trial began, the CBI was left with the daunting task of turning insinuation into evidence. A section of the media was happy to help. Evidence that could not be recovered from the scene of the crime was made to materialise in newspapers,” writes Shohini Ghosh, a professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, in the Indian Express.
  5. “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,” writes Vishvajeet Chaudhary, an assistant professor at OP Jindal University, in The Tribune.
  6. “The policymakers of this country need to appreciate this: the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Merely because an objective evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal justice system has not been done, it does not mean its efficacy for a large section of the victims of crime is not questionable,” writes Basant Rath, a 2000 batch Indian Police Service officer, in the Wire. “Evidence-based policing is not exactly a favourite domain of expertise for the majority in the IPS. It is time this must change. It is time fiction writing is left to Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi.”
  7. The Hoot publishes excerpts from its pieces that covered the excesses of the media while reporting on the Aarushi-Hemraj murder over the years.
  8. Journalist Sadiq Naqvi, writing for Catch, says that the court may have acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, but that does not mean their servants were automatically guilty. “Is there enough material to pin the blame on the servants? Remember, they have been subjected to custodial interrogation and narco-analysis and still no evidence was found against them, as the Central Bureau of Investigation has told the court on multiple occasions.”