The alleged murder of Sheena Bora by her mother Indrani Mukherjee is hogging the headlines, meanwhile, a strong message that emanates from the newly released film Talvar, based on the sensational Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case is that the role of media while reporting a developing crime story should be more responsible, and no one should suffer on account of an extrajudicial trial, which simultaneously takes place in the public domain. It is also perhaps not a mere coincidence that the movie has been released close on the heels of a book on the same subject, which too aims at raising pertinent questions on whether the conviction of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar was the correct conclusion of the case that continues to evince interest more than seven years after the ghastly murders took place in Noida. While Rajesh and Nupur are in jail serving their sentence for the gruesome killing of their daughter and domestic help, the session court’s verdict is awaiting a review by the Allahabad High Court as the logical next legal step available to the accused for redressal. Although insinuations regarding the motive for making the film have been brought to fore by another filmmaker, who had produced a movie on the same subject, yet it is expected that the judiciary shall not be swayed by developments taking place outside the premises of the court.

The Aarushi-Hemraj case has many shaded angles to it, but there is no doubt that the media has not showed the requisite professionalism while reporting many of the aspects, either because of ignorance or its zealousness in increasing its respective TRP ratings. As an illustration, when the three domestic helps were picked up and transported to Bangalore for a narco analysis test by the CBI, no journalist asked the relevant question on whether the premier investigating agency had taken the transit remand of the suspects from a magistrate and whether they were produced before a magistrate in Bangalore or whether their consent was taken while putting them through the narco analysis test.

There has been an increased tendency by the press to compare the Aarushi case to the recent Sheena Bora case, whereas both have a fundamental dissimilarity. In Aarushi’s case, it was obviously a murder by impulse, while in the case of Sheena; the killing was the consequence of thoroughly thought through pre-meditated conspiracy. After Aarushi and Hemraj’s bodies were found, Nupur Talwar gave a plethora of interviews to TV channels, one given barely a few days after Aarushi’s death, in a bid to build up an invincible defence, though the CBI ultimately found her and her husband guilty. In the Sheena case, Peter Mukerjea had granted several TV interviews, doing so before he was put through questioning by the Mumbai police. As of now, there is no evidence linking him to the crime.

The Sheena case too continues to have its twists and turns. The circumstances under which Indrani Mukerjea, the prime accused was shifted in a serious condition to the J.J. Hospital in Mumbai from the Byculla jail has raised serious questions. It is still not clear how Indrani procured the medicines which she is supposed to have consumed. Or is it that someone who wanted her dead had ensured that she was administered the drugs in judicial custody? The Maharashtra government has a lot to answer and the media would do well to cover the unfolding saga objectively and without bias.

Some day, like in the Aarushi case, a movie would be made on the Sheena murder conspiracy case, which is perhaps even more complicated. As long as the movie has no agenda there would never be any problem. But a film which seeks to distort facts in order to portray a character or characters differently from what their role was during investigations, would amount to propaganda or a wilful attempt to protect someone.

One of the earliest instances of a sensational murder being replicated on celluloid was enacted in a Bollywood film of the early 1960s, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke. The film was based on the Nanavati case, where a naval commander, K.M. Nanavati killed his wife’s paramour, Prem Ahuja following an altercation in 1959. The case is a part of the annals of Indian judiciary, as it was perhaps the last jury trial held in the country highlighting relevant legal points, which continue to be taught to students of criminal law. The case took over the headlines for months and since then there was no electronic media, tabloids such as the Blitz had a field day with copies priced at 25 paisa selling as much as Rs. 2.

Actual crimes have been portrayed in several western movies as well. Bonnie and Clyde was based on a true story of the infamous pair by the same name. There was a gripping film on the life of Jesse James and the assassination of John Kennedy has inspired many filmmakers to present various versions of the highly sensational killing. The mystery, however, still continues to intrigue those who have followed this Presidential slaying at Dallas in Texas. Viewers, therefore, should watch Talvar with intelligent scepticism, as it may not necessarily be the most factual narrative of the Aarushi-Hemraj case.   Wait for judicial verdict of Sheena Bora murder.

By Uma Ramachandran

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