Edited Excerpts from an interview
What is your reaction to the verdict on the Arushi-Hemraj murder case and the way in which the verdict was arrived at despite evidence to the contrary?
This verdict will go down in legal history as a dark chapter. It has been a grievous miscarriage of justice. It has bought into an absurd and fabricated narrative that the prosecution came up with. It has not bothered to challenge the many loopholes in the prosecution story or paid attention to the legitimate questions raised by the defence counsel. The Talwars were not allowed to present their witnesses or evidence that could turn the tide of the case. It should have looked into the most important evidence in the case — the pillowcase with Hemraj’s blood and DNA that was recovered from Krishna’s room. It should have asked why the bloodstained khukri was not sent for advanced DNA testing. It should have allowed the 14 defence witnesses to testify. The trial was mystifyingly one-sided. Justice is as much about protecting the innocent as punishing the guilty, but this trial seemed determined to go for conviction even when the prosecution could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
It would appear from the language of the verdict — calling the Talwars freaks — that the judgment has emerged not out of the merits of the case but the slander and prejudice that surrounded it. The judiciary is one of the most important pillars of a democracy and we expect it to uphold the highest standards. I’m hoping that the Allahabad High Court will study the merits of the case and uphold the majesty of the law.
What is your take on the media’s dogged pursuit of the case? Do you think that it has led to a highly moralised opinion of the case by armchair detectives from television, fuelled by frequent leaks on the case?
Barring exceptions, the media went for sensation, not for facts. It privileged speculation over reporting. It was also plagued by a common problem that has now beset reporters on the crime beat; they do not challenge the police versions, but are happy to reproduce it. This has turned the clock back on investigative journalism. Fifteen years ago, this would not have happened.
Was it a moral victory for the media and the gullible audience it played to?
It was a moral defeat for those who believe in the ethics of journalism. It is also a moral defeat for the public who have failed to demand high standards of journalism. It is time for everyone to reflect. Those who gloat must know that they are going to be judged differently by posterity; as those who bought into the rot instead of stemming it.
Do you think this case reveals the shoddy state of preliminary criminal investigation?
Absolutely. Even the police and CBI admit to that.