A SENSATIONAL CRIME got a semi-closure recently when the Sessions Court in Mumbai sentenced artist Chintan Upadhyay to life for the murder of his wife Hema. Both of them had been luminaries in the firmament of the country’s art scene. Theirs had been a college love story fructifying in marriage that eventually soured. A bitter drawn-out divorce followed but there continued to be disagreement over, among other things, a flat owned jointly. Stories of the build-up of the hate between the two made it to newspaper pages when Hema complained about Chintan making obscene drawings on the walls of their house. In 2015, the bodies of Hema and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani were found in a drain, wrapped in plastic sheets inside cardboard boxes. Chintan was soon arrested, alleged to have contracted art fabricators, who worked with both him and Hema, to commit the murder.
It is a semi-closure because from what we read in the newspapers about the judgment, there is material for the appeal that will certainly follow. The main killer, Vidyadhar Rajbhar, was never caught and his mother’s statement was relied on as a link to Chintan. Another one of the killers implicated Chintan but then backtracked his confession in court. The judgment relies a lot on inference. There are phone calls of Chintan to Rajbhar in the days preceding the murder but that was explained by the defence as related to work. But now that verdict on the eight-year-old crime has been passed, guilt must be assumed and it raises a few interesting thoughts on the nature of murder.
Most murders are impulsive, done in anger and without design. A killing plotted over many months is a rarity by amateurs. That is also the reason why they almost always get caught. In the present case, the disposal of the bodies was bungled up but even if they were never found, this was never going to be the perfect murder. There was not one but two people missing, both well-known professionals with strong links to family and society. The police would have been forced to investigate and almost immediately phone records would have traced them to the fabricators, and then Chintan.
If someone who has never murdered before is planning one, then what are the odds of not getting caught if those he chooses as key accomplices have also no experience? They seemed to not even have perfunctory knowledge of how police conduct criminal investigations, otherwise, the minimum precaution of not leaving a trace of phone records would have been taken. Even professionals only can control what happens during the murder and after, not what the victim does earlier in leaving information of who she was planning to meet. The abiding lesson in all this is that giving up a flat in Juhu and feeling angry, hurt and humiliated is always better than killing someone. If your moral compass does not extend to not taking lives, at least the risk-reward ratio should. The perfect murder exists only in books but enough hate can make you forget that.