In his first major court hearing, Aftab Poonawalla unexpectedly and expectedly resorted to a ‘heat of the moment’ defence. Nor has he ‘confessed’ to the murder of his live-in partner Shraddha Walker. However, the Delhi court took his claims lightly and granted police custody for four more days.
With this, the investigation will turn into a regular farce, and the police may even find some relief in being able to work away from the glare of the media.
But the Delhi Police should not forget that such cases are very difficult to prosecute in court, however high their profile may be in the media.
Several murder cases in Mumbai in recent years are a sad testimony to this. The bodies are cut up and destroyed and, in some cases, are never even discovered. After that, a media circus ensues and the local police enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. But come the time of trial, they realize they have precious little to convince the law. They have to rely only on circumstantial evidence and forensic evidence.
This paper has highlighted how forensic analysis will play a vital role in solving the case and subsequent trial. It is in this light that the Delhi Police’s declaration in court – even before the Rohini Forensic Science Laboratory has released reports on the bone and DNA samples – that they believe the bones they have retrieved are those of Walker, is worrying.
Such audacity may make the investigators look good on the front page today, but it will backfire once the trial begins. Any half-competent defense attorney will try to exploit these loopholes, and pronouncements like this are low-hanging fruit.
Lastly, the powers that be should ensure that the matter is fast-tracked once it reaches the trial stage, and with this in mind, they should not hesitate to transfer the matter to a larger agency, if necessary.