Ok, let’s be clear about this. I know nothing about Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj’s murders beyond the absolute basics. Fourteen-year-old Aarushi was found brutally murdered in her bed. Hemraj worked as domestic help with the Talwar family and was also killed. This happened back in 2008 and it became one of the most sensational crime stories. Day before yesterday, Aarushi’s parents were found guilty of both murders. The judgement, announced (or whatever it is that one does with judgements) yesterday, has been floating around and I wasn’t going to read it. Life is depressing enough without subjecting yourself voluntarily to legalese and double murders.
Then someone sent me a link to the judgement with a few quotes and a note that said that this document was bound to make me giggle. I’m ashamed to admit that they were right. I giggled while reading about a horrific, tragic set of crimes, and responsible for this insensitive display on my part is Additional Special Sessions Judge S. Lal’s judgement.
Reading his judgement, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is such a thing as spirit possession. Because entirely too often, that document reads like it’s been written by Barbara Cartland.
Allow me to furnish you with examples. Voila the first lines, and I mean this literally. This is how the judgement begins:
The cynosure of judicial determination is the fluctuating fortunes of the dentist couple Dr. Rajesh Talwar and Dr. Nupur Talwar, who have been arraigned for committing and secreting as also deracinating the evidence of commission of the murder of their own adolescent daughter — a beaut damsel and sole heiress Ms. Aarushi and hapless domestic aide Hemraj, who had migrated to India from neighbouring Nepal to eke out living and attended routinely to the chores of domestic drudgery at the house of their masters.
Now look, legalese is never simple, but “cynosure of judicial determination”? “Fluctuating fortunes”? “A beaut damsel and sole heiress” and “a hapless domestic aide”? Is this The Serpent of Satan or a legal document?
Lal’s judgement is 210 pages long and even though I’ve read the whole thing, I’m not going to pretend I understand if this is a good judgement. According to the prosecution, this is what happened. It doesn’t sound entirely logical and at the end of reading all those pages, I’ve little idea as to whether or not the Talwars actually killed their daughter and help or why they would do such a thing. I only know that this was a nightmarish set of crimes and that the language of the judgement is insane.
The Dramatis Personae are Dr. Rajesh Talwar, his wife Dr. Nupur Talwar, the accused of this case, Ms.
Aarushi and Hemraj, who were bludgeoned and
thereafter, jugulated to death… .
Dramatis personae? Really?
They [Talwars] were not in position to talk to anyone as they were lugubrious.
What was wrong with ‘gloomy’ or ‘pensive’? Who, other than a heartbroken Regency heroine or the parents of an eloped damsel of that era, has managed to be “lugubrious”?
School bag and whim-whams were in the bed of Aarushi… .
What are ‘whim-whams’?
He had not gone to the police station to lodge his report, nay, the report was dictated to him by police personnel in his house.
Nay, His Honour surely did not use “nay” in the 21st century, forsooth!
On hearing ululation Mr. Punish Rai Tandon had come to his [Rajesh Talwar’s]… He [Talwar] was wearing T-shirt and half pant and Dr. Nupur was wearing peignoir since night… .
As if ‘ululation’ wasn’t bad enough, there’s a woman in a peignoir. Incidentally, this garment in later pages time travels to the present and becomes a “maxi”, which is part of the evidence I’m submitting for spirit possession.
The evidence that hymen was old, healed and torn is nothing but an act of calumny and character assassination of his daughter. …
He has also admitted that Hemraj was average built but he has no knowledge as to whether his willy was turgid.
The problem of a 14-year-old’s hymen being described as “old” and being ‘torn’ is a separate and more genuinely distressing problem, one which I’m going to glance past to focus on Lal’s /Cartland’s (Lalartland’s?) literary flourish.
I don’t think anyone’s described possible rape and definite murder as an act of calumny in the last 100-odd years. I’m going to refrain from commenting on the turgid willy. (Willy? Willy?) A little later, while speaking of the same, ahem, organ:
…it has been contended by the learned counsel… that swelling of the pecker of Hemraj was because either he had been murdered in the midst of sexual intercourse or just before he was about to have the sexual intercourse which he has stated on the basis of marital experience is nothing but a medical blasphemy …
Tell me, if you must say ‘pecker’ instead of ‘penis’, why couldn’t it be “Hemraj’s pecker”? Why did it have to be “pecker of Hemraj”? And this “marital experience”, aside from being “medical blasphemy”, makes me worried for the chap who’s basing his understanding of peckers, sexual intercourse and marriage on it.
“El Dorado of absolute proof”, “well-nigh” impossibilities, a “gossamer web of niceties”, references to Euclid’s theorem — I can’t help it. I’m totally imagining Barbara Cartland in the judge’s seat. Especially when Lal goes off and creates a word: “tantamounting”. That’s almost as brilliant as the use of the word “x-bamboozling”, which was, it seems, used way back in 1965. Moving on…
Bharti Mandal is totally illiterate and bucolic lady from a
lower-strata of the society…
I’m sorry, but I’m really not sure that a woman can be described as bucolic when she’s from an impoverished village in West Bengal and has left hearth and home just to eke out a living. Sheesh. Now I’m beginning to sound like Barbara Cartland.
…it was observed that where an incident is narrated by the same person to the different persons on different occasions some difference in the mode of narrating the incident is bound to arise. But such differences do not militate against the trustworthiness of the narration…
I’ve no idea what any of that means, but it totally sounds like the kind of thing a poncy authority figure would say in a Cartland novel. I think.
A man may tell a lie but the circumstances can never.
Mind is, indeed, a peculiar place and the working of human mind is often inscrutable.
That’s definitely from The Serpent of Satan.
Then, on page 138, appears my favourite part of this entire judgement:
…in view of the maddening contradictions, the entire warp and woof of the prosecution story is rendered brittle.
Legal conclusion, doggy style.
…the jerk and jolt is not such as to upset and tilt the prosecution version…
… an adventure in criminality, some hitting, some missing, some splitting hostile heads, some spitting drops of blood.
Not quite as evocative as “warp and woof”, but filled with such cadence. Along the way, Lal also summarises Oscar Wilde. Because what’s a murder judgement without a little perspective from Oscar Wilde?
As the judgement draws to a close, Lal brings out his last flourish. Emphases mine:
Now is the time to say omega in this case. … They have extirpated their own daughter who had hardly seen 14 summers of her life and the servant without compunction from terrestrial terrain in breach of Commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ and injunction of Holy Quran- “Take not life, which God has made sacred” … They are also found guilty of secreting and obliterating the evidence of the commission of the murders to screen themselves from legal punishment. … Both the accused have flouted the ferocious penal law of the land …
Ah that *ferocious* penal law. Growl.
Edited to add: The Times of India, that bastion of good sense and high principles, has this profile of Judge S. Lal. No mention of whether he has recently discovered any special fondness for pink, diamonds, fake eyelashes and small, yappy dogs.