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Nov 20, 2013 at 04:44pm IST

Aarushi-Hemraj murder: The case that triggered a morality debate

New Delhi: It is less than a week to go for the much anticipated verdict in the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case. CNN-IBN looks at how the sensational murders triggered an unprecedented debate over morality.

On May 23, 2008, the Uttar Pradesh Police announced why it believes that Aarushi Talwar's father Rajesh killed his daughter and domestic help Hemraj. "Aarushi was found in an objectionable, but not compromising position following which Rajesh Talwar attacked her," said Gurudarshan Singh, former IG, Meerut Range.

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It was this statement which turned this case from being a sensational double murder to a trigger for a furious debate on morality, modernity and more. It was a debate which split the Indian discourse down the middle.

It was a rare instance of a case where police faced two inquiries for maligning the victim's character. The then UP Police IG Gurudarshan Singh was shifted after condemnation of his press briefing. An intense media coverage led the Supreme Court to issue cautionary order on sensationalising murders.

But the real damage didn't just come from what the UP Police said on record. It came from what was leaked off camera. Salacious details of Aarushi's personal life, police grappling with teenager terms like sleepover to details of even the Talwar family's nature of friendships with other couples were leaked. It diverted the focus from a heinous crime to a battle between a contrived debate between conservatism and modernity.

The insinuations spared no one and Aarushi's anguished aunt went public. "Why is my family being victimised," Vandana Talwar questioned.

The questions did not spare even close family friends. "These questions like were you having an affair with Rajesh Talwar, they are wrong. We have been family friends for 10 years," said Talwars' family friend Anita Durrani.

Many believed that the UP police kept leaking details to supplement their motive for suspicion that the Talwars were a broken family whose teenaged daughter was killed to protect the family honour and that the family's own sense of morality was questionable. This attempt deeply troubled even Aarushi's young friends.

"I can guarantee the character assassination that is happening, there was nothing of this kind. We are very upset with the things that have been said about Aarushi's character and the way Rajesh uncle is being targeted is not fair," said one of Aarushi's friends.

Ironically, what the UP Police bumbled its way into announcing in May 2008 now sounds very similar to what the CBI finally told the court during the trial. But for five years, a battle between disbelievers of a theory of a father killing his daughter and ones with moral condescension continued, making the Aarushi-Hemraj double murders a national morality debate.

In this continuing discourse, the investigators needed to have stuck to the only thing that mattered - the evidence and facts of the case. Whether they managed enough to satisfy the courts will be established on November 25, but the big question remains whether it will bring a closure to the morality debate.