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Friday, December 11, 2015

The Salman Khan And Talwars

Posted by: danish Ahmed 3:10 AM

The recent acquittal of Salman Khan in 2002 drunken driving and running over five people,killing one of them and injuring four others has the media and social media talking about the judgement incessantly. While his massive fan following is celebrating the acquittal, a lot of people have been sorely disappointed with the proceedings and even the Judge pointed out the shoddy investigation carried out by the prosecution. In Salman Khan's case, not including Kamaal Khan, the other eyewitness and one of the persons inside the vehicle during the incidence as a witness before the court seems too callous. There are other lapses on part of the prosecution too but I don't intend to do an autopsy of this case, which the media has been conducting anyway. However I must confess that being a fan of Salman Khan I am not at all unhappy that he has been acquitted, besides I am not the kind of person who seeks personal gratification in punishment of individuals. Punishment through due process of law is a necessity to uphold the rule of law and dispense justice but I don't see any role of individual or collective passion in it (except in rare cases). At the same time, the idea that people can be subjected to rigorous punishment as a result of similar shoddy investigation is highly disturbing.


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Although there might be numerous such cases all across India, the one that comes to mind instantly is that of the Noida dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar  convicted in the murder case of their daughter Aarushi Talwar and domestic help Hemraj.Several media reports as well as recently released movie, Talvar by Meghna Gulzar/Vishal Bhardwaj and Avirook Sen's book Aarushi have revealed how farcical the investigation was from the beginning which is why it was transferred to the CBI. At the onset the investigating team was nearly convinced that the Talwar couple were innocent but then the team was taken off the case and a new team appointed to carry on the investigation. The reason I have drawn parallel between Salman Khan's case and that of the Talwars is that both are high profile cases which were covered by media extensively but while Salman Khan is a Bollywood superstar, the Talwars were ordinary folks, even if belonging to the upper middle class. Perhaps it is because of their social status that they landed in a unique situation. While not exactly rich enough to influence investigation, employ a battery of eminent lawyers or possess political connections, they belonging to the upwardly mobile class with the typical and absolutely normal lifestyle but perhaps different from those of the investigating officers (what is a sleepover? the officer asking Rajesh Talwar rather derisively hints at it),

Perhaps this worked against them when malicious rumours such as them having extramarital affairs, indulging in orgies, wife-swapping and other salacious insinuations against them and their 14 year old daughter was lapped up and amplified by the media. The local police was instrumental in making these insinuations go public so they could have an open and shut case without actually spending time and effort to conduct real investigation. Given the popularity of this sleazy narrative of the media amongst the people and subsequent demonization of the Talwar couple, the first CBI team's findings on the parents being innocent was not well received. The only likely conclusion on why the then CBI team investigating the case was taken off it and a new team was created to investigate, could be that that some people involved in decision making may have preferred the investigation to proceed on the  lines of the popular narrative rather than conduct investigation and find facts.

Despite, there being incriminating leads (according to first CBI team which it obtained through narco analysis tests) on presence of other people in the house the fateful night and the compounder confessing to having committed the murders and recovery of at least one crucial evidence the second CBI team chose to follow the "honour killing"  narrative even if there was no evidence supporting it. The Talwars even cleared all lie detectors and narco analysis tests. This is why the CBI filed closure report in the case but in an unexpected move the magistrate rejected it and asked CBI to try both the parents as accused by converting the closure report into charge-sheet.  Now since the CBI thought it didn't have enough evidence to convince the court that Rajesh Talwar murdered his daughter, it follows that the prosecution's case would have been weak during the trial. Yet, the trial court found it otherwise and convicted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for life. Avirook Sen's book gives a detailed account of the bizarre trial proceedings and even reports how during an interview he found that the judge was already writing the verdict well before the defence had completed its final submission.

Coming back to Salman Khan's case, High Court overturning a trial court's verdict isn't exactly a rarity. Appeals filed in higher courts by nature aver that the lower court has erred in judging the case. The same was ruled in Salman's case and could hold true in the case of the Talwars. As opposed to Salman who was accused of hit-and-run case and was out on bail the Talwars are in prison and if the learned court has erred it would be too great an injustice for parents whose only daughter was brutally killed when she was only 14 years old and now they have been convicted  in the same case and serving life sentence because the prosecution was at first extremely lousy and then vindictive towards them. Unlike Salman who was granted bail by the High Court immediately after his conviction, the Talwars have been denied bail but more importantly the Salman Khan's appeal against the trial court verdict was disposed off in 7 months. Talwar couples' appeal before Allahbad High Court is pending indefinitely. With appeals from 1980s still pending in the court, it is unlikely to be listed for hearing any time soon. When Meghna Gulzar's Talvar was released to critical acclaim, changing a lot of people's opinion on what really happened there was a wave of sympathy for Rajesh and Nupur Talwar with some calling for the appeal to be put on fast track but the enthusiasm seems to have fizzled out.

Of course Salman Khan has every right to use all legal means available to him to seek acquittal but it is really tragic that ordinary couple like the Talwars have to wait for an eternity for their appeal to be heard. It is a truly sorry state to be in.

For detailed insight into the tragic story of the Talwars, I highly recommend this book :


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