As the defence team in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case gets ready to file an appeal in the Allahabad High Court against the conviction of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, the man at the centre of attention is Tanveer Ahmad Mir, the lead defence counsel, who hails from the Kashmir Valley. Mir, 42, was chosen to plead the Talwars’ case for his “strong footing as a criminal lawyer” in New Delhi and his belief in the innocence of his clients.
“It has been a challenge to mount the defence considering the prejudiced environment in which we had to operate,” says Mir, whose legal team includes two counsels from Jammu & Kashmir — Dhruv Gupta from Jammu and Faheem Nisar Shah from Baramulla. “But we are optimistic that the truth will eventually prevail and the Talwars will be acquitted. From the examination of the records and the circumstances of the case, it is clear that the case against the Talwars is fabricated.”
Mir, the son of former J&K minister Abdul Gani Mir, has been practising law in New Delhi since 1996 and has since accumulated a vast experience in handling complex cases. Mir is also defending the accused in the 2G spectrum scam, CWG scam, Citibank fraud in Gurgaon and the sensational Nargis Juneja murder case.
For Mir, the Aarushi- Hemraj murder case has been a “psychologically tough” one. “What has been difficult to deal with is a preconceived notion about the case, which is reflected in a section of the media and the public opinion,” says Mir, who was hired by the Talwars in September 2012. “Our challenge is not only to mount a legal defence but also work against that biased opinion.”
Though a reputed criminal lawyer, Mir has not been active in the legal scene in Kashmir. “I have been away from Kashmir for almost the entire period of the turmoil,” says Mir. “But I have remained connected with the place and even legally involved when I felt it was required.”
Mir has fought the cases of Kashmiri detainees in Delhi and ensured that “they got justice”. The most well-known of these is the 2004 Humayun’s Tomb shootout case in which alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba militants from Kashmir — Sheikh Sajjad, Mehrajuddin Peer and Firoz Ahmed Sheikh — were let off after a light jail sentence.
Before their conviction, the Talwars used to visit Mir’s office almost every day to discuss their case. “They spent 3-4 hours every day with us. We discussed the prosecution witnesses’ statements and their lacunae,” says associate counsel Dhruv Gupta. “In the past one year, Mir examined 27 prosecution witnesses and cross-questioned them to extract evidence in support of our clients.”
Faheem Nisar Shah, on the other hand, says the Talwars were affected by the stories, generally sourced from the CBI, and the recurrent media portrayal of their alleged role in the double murder. “However, in their discussions, the Talwars took a rational view of things and concerned themselves with the job at hand,” says Shah.
Now the team is entirely focussed on filing an appeal in the Allahabad High Court. They are dissecting the judgment, “identifying factual and legal errors” and also finding faults with the evidence marshalled by the prosecution. One such evidence is the statement by prosecution witness Dr Naresh Raj — a senior medical officer at Noida at the time of murder — that Hemraj’s swollen penis was the result of his being “bludgeoned to death in the course of the intercourse”. Mir terms the statement as “medical blasphemy, which flies in the face of the medical evidence and forensic science”.
“I have found inspiration from Dr Nupur Talwar. She has been emotionally strong during the trial, even at times when we felt a bit weak considering the colossal tragedy she has suffered by losing her only child,” says Mir about the Talwars who have stuck with the team despite the adverse verdict. “We are hopeful that the trial court’s verdict will be set aside by the Allahabad High Court and we will be able to secure the acquittal of our clients.”