Judge Shyam Lal’s ruling in the Aarushi murder case has reinforced the well-accepted principle that the goal or objective of legal presumption in a criminal case is not to eliminate circumstantial evidence but to make sure that it is not abused to the detriment of an innocent person (editorial page, “Evidence of circumstances,” Nov. 29). In other words, it is the quantity and quality of circumstantial evidence that decide its admissibility, without giving too much room for only the preponderance of probabilities. The Aarushi case is yet another milestone in the evolution of law. In the eyes of the law, circumstantial evidence is, in no way, inferior to direct evidence.
The article will help dispel the misconception that the Talwars were wrongly sentenced in the case. People still believe in the age-old concept that an eyewitness account is what constitutes correct and conclusive evidence in murder cases. There is also a tendency among the general public to oppose a punishment if the accused are high-profile and demand the maximum punishment for citizens belonging to the lower strata of society.
Reports that the Talwar couple will effectively utilise their time in jail to treat and educate inmates is welcome. Judge Shyam Lal has delivered a forthright and fearless judgment in an interesting case.
It cannot be said that Judge Shyam Lal relied on the Supreme Court judgment in the Bobade case because the learned judge factored in not only circumstantial evidence but also prima facie evidence of what the Talwars saw on the fateful night. The Supreme Court’s Bobade judgment, cited by Mr. Raghavan, was delivered by no less a judge than Justice Krishna Iyer.
There are glaring misconceptions in what R.K. Raghavan calls “crucial points.” That the driver was the last person to leave the house with only the dentist couple, Aarushi and Hemraj in the house is hardly corroborative evidence. Also, the fact that the Internet was accessed most of the night is no shocker. David Coleman Headley used somebody else’s router to send and receive mails! Third, the assumption that the father, after committing a double murder in a fit of fury, went back to surf the Internet throughout the night is preposterous.
It is ironic that in a country that claims to be a leader in information technology, investigative methods are not up to date and circumstantial evidence was largely used to deliver the judgment in the Aarushi Talwar case. The case is a wake-up call to improve the standards of evidence gathering in our police departments and investigative agencies.
While I agree that judges, in the absence of direct evidence, should exercise their valued discretion to punish the guilty, my question is how many judges can emulate Justice Shyam Lal? In India, most judges follow the apparent facts and never seem to venture into challenging areas which require the holistic knowledge of similar cases in legal history. They never take any risk.
Thota Venkata Ramana,