By Brijesh Pandey
RIGHT FROM the day 14-year-old Aarushi was found dead in her apartment in Noida on 15 May 2008, it has been a case study of how not to conduct a criminal investigation. The botching-up process started by the Noida Police was duly carried on by the CBI.
First, in true Indian police style, the missing servant Hemraj was declared the main suspect. Logic? The person missing from the scene is the one guilty of the crime. QED.
What followed was something the Noida Police had not bargained for. All hell broke loose when a retired Noida police officer reached the spot the next morning and went up the staircase leading to the terrace. He broke open the lock. Hemraj’s body was lying there. It was a huge oversight on the part of the Noida Police.
But this wasn’t the end of the circus. As news of Hemraj’s body being found spread like wildfire, television crews swarmed the place, trampling all over the crime scene. Nobody thought of sealing the place. Perhaps in its acute embarrassment over the Hemraj fiasco, the police forgot important forensic clues were being destroyed.
If that wasn’t enough, the way Aarushi’s post-mortem was conducted and swabs and viscera were handled, effectively sealed the fate of the case, much before it was handed over to the CBI. It was initially claimed by Dr Sunil Dohre that the swab contained a white discharge similar to semen, but later his boss Dr SC Singhal told the media that slides prepared from the swab had tested negative for semen.
In its closure report, the CBI had also mentioned that Aarushi’s uncle Dinesh Talwar tried to influence Dr Dohre, a charge that was denied by the family.
Not only this, lab assistants Navneet and Vikas are alleged to have mishandled the forensic samples they received from the Noida Police. The CBI has also mentioned that the samples were contaminated to such an extent that it was impossible to get evidence from them.
A senior UP police officer said on the condition of anonymity: “This case was killed in the initial phase. The way the whole investigation was conducted is a scary reminder to all of us that in the 21st century, we are still stuck with archaic methods — and most importantly, we don’t understand the importance of forensics. This case should serve as an eye-opener for the force as well as policy planners. Police at the thana level is not equipped to carry out scientific probes. Had they been, the case would have been solved long ago.”
Then came another shocker. Forensic investigators at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics in Hyderabad said that the vaginal swabs drawn from Aarushi were substituted with samples from an unknown woman.
What followed was a CBI flip-flop. The case was handed over to a CBI team headed by Joint Director Arun Kumar, but it was unable to make a breakthrough. Aarushi’s cell phone, which was missing since the murder, was recovered by the Delhi Police Crime Branch, adding to the CBI’s discomfort. But even this proved futile as all the data had been wiped clean. Based on the outcome of narco tests, the CBI declared that Aarushi’s parents were innocent and it was the servants who did it. But it was unable to prove the charges.
When Ashwani Kumar became CBI chief in August 2008, he constituted a new team for the case. But even this team found neither motive nor weapon.
So, will the double murder remain an eternal mystery? Nobody has a clue.