India’s criminal justice system , law enforcement whether its police ,adjudication (courts and justice delivery system) has never been so thoroughly exposed for its inherent weakness as in the 2008 murder case of teenager Arushi Talwar and domestic worker Hemraj Banjade.

It witnessed not only a weak investigation by Noida police that made the case unsolvable due to mishandling of available forensic evidence but also flip flop by CBI ,which first gave clean chit to Talwars and then pronounced  them guilty of murder.


Arushi talwar was a 14 year old student and the daughter of dentist couple Dr. Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar.

Arushi was found dead with her throat slit in her bedroom in Noida. Hemraj who was missing and thus suspected of the murder . But, the very next day Hemraj’s  was found dead on the terrace .

The police were heavily criticized for failing to secure the crime scene immediately .The police suspected that Rajesh had murdered the two finding them in an “objectionable position”.

The case then transferred to CBI ,which absolved the  parents and suspected the Talwar’s assistant Krishna alongwith domestic servant Rajkumar and Vijay.

Based on the narco test conducted on these CBI suspected that they had killed  Arushi after an attempted sexual assault and Hemraj for being a witnesss. But the CBI was accused of using illegal methods to extract confession and then the three were released on the basis of absence of lack of evidence against them.

In 2009, the CBI handed over the investigation to  a new team , based on the circumstantial evidence it named Talwars as suspect but refused to charge as a lack of evidence and recommended closure of case due to critical gaps in investigation. The parents opposed the closure .

Subsequently ,court rejected CBI’s claim and ordered proceedings against Talwars.

Talwars approached the Allahabad HC for quashing trail summon  but it got dismissed. The couple then approached the Supreme Court ,in November 2013 they were convicted for double murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by special CBI court in Ghaziabad.

On 12 october, Allahabad HC acquitted them giving benefit of doubt.

Now there are certain questions  that needs to be answered-

  • Weather the issue of process by the Magistrate under section 204 of CrPC was valid , after the CBI in its end report prayed for its closure?

Section 204 of CrPC states that Magistrate may take cognizance of an offence and issue the process when he is satisfied that sufficient grounds for proceedings exist. There is no legal requirement in 204 to record its reason also., but the Magistrate should form the reason judicially for the proceeding of further investigation not closure of the case.

In case of Kanti Bhadra Saha v State of West Bengal, there  was no legal requirement to write an order showing the reason for framing of charges.

  • Whether the investigation was questionable?

The question in investigation began when the investigation was under the Noida police. The police collected the Scotch bottle , blood stained pillow cases and the bed sheet that covered Hemraj’s body , however they labeled them such a way that that forensic results were confusing. Talwar’s neighbor pointed the blood stains leading to the terrace , which initially police dismissed those stains and called them “paan stain”which could have been the blood of victim or the murderer. The journalist were allowed to walk over the terrace and thus contaminating the evidence. The investigation team created a lot of confusion about the blood of Hemraj found on the pillow cover.

  • Whether the Narco- Analysis Test is admissible?

Narco analysis , Polygraph etc are the parts of modern medical science which are being followed up as an alternative to third degree to take out the information that can be used as an evidence out of the accused. These test cause no harm to the body and will only used for strengthening investigation.

The constitutional validity  of narco test was discussed in Selvi v State of Karnataka , SC held it to be unconstitutional and violative of article 20(3) i.e. Right against self incrimination.

  • Whether the person can be convicted based on last seen theory without substantial evidence?

Last seen theory is a jurisprudential concept where the accused can be proven guilty if-

    • Accused was the last person who was seen with victim
    • Chain of events was not broken
    • The guilt of accused was established

Section 106 of Indian Evidence act states that burden of proof lies on the person who has the knowledge of the fact.

In this case since the parents were the only 2 surviving habitat in the house , the burden of proof shifted from prosecution to them as the court held that they could only hold knowledge of the crime.

In case of Satpal singh v State of Haryana , SC fundamentally states that the last seen theory is a weaker kind of evidence , this theory is not sufficient in the absence of direct evidence.  This theory is only applicable when the motive is established and the chain of circumstances is proved beyond reasonable doubt through corroborative evidence.


A high profile case as such, draws a lot of attention and this case drew a hell lot of attention from media and the public. The clear motive of crime couldn’t be established against the parents by the investigating agency . no substantial evidence just hypothetical situation put forth by prosecution couldn’t be proved.

It is difficult to avoid external pressure in such cases thus a sense of belief in justice system so that justice could be served to the victims and their families.


Author: Aditi Trivedi,
Faculty of law, Delhi University ,1st year law student

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