Four years after their conviction and given life terms, dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were on Thursday acquitted in the 2008 murders of their teenage daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj by the Allahabad High Court that gave them the benefit of doubt, a verdict that left questions unanswered on who killed them.
A bench of Justice B.K. Narayana and Justice A.K. Mishra set free the couple in the sensational murder of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar at their Jalvayu Vihar home in Noida on May 16, 2008.
Tanveer Ahmed Mir, lawyer for the couple, said they were able to prove that the CBI case had no basis or legs to stand on. "Once the basis of the prosecution was knocked out because it was unbelievable, then there was no motive. There was no sterling witness."
Aditya Wadhwa, another defence lawyer, said just because there was no other person present in the room, where Aarushi was found dead, it was unjustified to blame the parents for the murder.
He said both the judges found the charges against them baseless and there was no strength in the allegations of the CBI.
Dhruv Gupta, another counsel for the accused parents, said there was no eyewitness and in a case which depended on circumstantial evidence "the law of the land is that the benefit of doubt goes to the accused".
"Also when is an alternative hypothesis (of some other killer), the benefit of doubt again goes to the accused."
The couple is expected to be set free from Dasna jail in Ghaziabad on Friday. Their relatives expressed happiness over the judgement, saying finally the ordeal is over for the couple.
"I am thankful to the judiciary for giving a positive verdict. It has been a stressful life since Aarushi Talwar was killed. I am grateful for the acquittal of Rajesh and Nupur. Allow us to absorb the news. We always knew they were not guilty," Aarushi's maternal grandfather B.G. Chitnis said.
Reacting to the verdict, the CBI said it would study the Allahabad High Court order and "decide the future course of action".
Pinaki Mishra, the lawyer who appeared for the couple in the Supreme Court, said the CBI will have no case to argue in the Supreme Court. "In fact, they will have to answer a number of questions in the Supreme Court as to why they did not investigate properly."
After a Special CBI Court in Ghaziabad convicted them for the murders in 2013 and handed them life terms, the Talwars appealed in the Allahabad High Court against the verdict.
Former CBI Director A.P. Singh, who then headed the agency when it took over the case, said: "There were loopholes in our investigation and that is why we had closed the case saying it was inconclusive."
He said the High Court verdict "does not say that the Talwars didn't do it" but that there was not enough evidence against them.
Aarushi was found murdered in her bedroom, following which Hemraj was initially a suspect. However, his body too was found in a pool of blood a day later on the terrace of the house.
The Uttar Pradesh Police accused Rajesh Talwar of killing his daughter in a fit of rage after he allegedly found Aarushi in a compromising situation with Hemraj. Rajesh Talwar was arrested on May 23, 2008.
On May 31, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the case. It initially absolved the parents of conspiracy and murder but later held them responsible.
On June 13, Rajesh Talwar's compounder Krishna was arrested by the CBI. Ten days later, Raj Kumar, a servant of a doctor friend of the Talwars, and Vijay Mandal, the domestic help of the Talwars' neighbour, were also nabbed.
The three were later freed after no evidence was found against them.