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Inconclusive Medical Reports Delaying Sunanda Pushkar Death Probe?

The third opinion from the autopsy board of AIIMS had ruled out natural death and cited ‘poisoning’ as the cause. It further opined that poisoning was through oral route. However, injectable route also can’t be ruled out.

Subhajit Sengupta | CNN-News18SubhajitSG

Updated:August 4, 2017, 4:24 PM IST
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Inconclusive Medical Reports Delaying Sunanda Pushkar Death Probe?
Sunanda Pushkar was found dead at a suite in a five-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
New Delhi: The latest status report by the Delhi Police in the Sunanda Pushkar death case shows the probe is still stuck at the 'cause of death' stage with none of the medical boards reaching a definite conclusion.

The report accessed by CNN-News18 showed there was a clear contradiction between the viscera report and the medical board's opinion which kept the cause of death open-ended.

The status report was filed by the Delhi Police after they were asked by the HC about the inordinate delay in the case.

The third opinion from the autopsy board of AIIMS had ruled out natural death and cited ‘poisoning’ as the cause. It further opined that poisoning was through oral route. However, injectable route also can’t be ruled out.

But the same board in its fourth and final opinion stated that the cause of the death was ‘poisoning’ by excessive ingestion of tablet Alprazolam. It did not rule out the possibility of injectable poisoning or death due to lidocaine (found in the FBI report) and insulin or any other hypo-glycaemic agent.

The Director General, Health Services, Government of India constituted a board in 2016, which ruled out Lidocaine or Insulin being the cause of death. It, however, sought some more data from the FBI.

Such multiplicity of opinions and their open-ended nature beg the question: Did the probe get delayed because of the lack of clarity of the AIIMS board?

Here’s a look at the twists and turns in the case so far:


January 20, 2014: Delhi Police receive post-mortem report from AIIMS. The report says death due to ‘poisoning, the circumstantial evidence is suggestive of Alprazolam poisoning’

March 10, 2014: Delhi Police receive viscera analysis report from CFSL. But in this report, Alprax content wasn’t discovered

April 4, 2014: Autopsy board of AIIMS seeks further clarification; sample sent to FSL, Rohini

August 20, 2014: FSL Rohini says no Alprax found

August 28, 2014: AIIMS medical board says Sunanda died due to ‘poisoning’, but the identification of the type of poison was beyond the capability of the Indian FSL as it could be Thallium, Polonium-210, Nerium Pleander, snake bites etc

December 29, 2014: Third opinion from the autopsy board of AIIMS rules out natural death and cited ‘poisoning’ as the cause. It further says that poisoning was through oral route. However, injectable route also can’t be ruled out, it says

February 10, 2015: Viscera samples sent to FBI labs for further analysis

September 23, 2015: FBI report mentions that Aprazolam and Hydroxy Chloroquine were detected in samples

November 6, 2015: FBI report on radio-chemistry examination of viscera samples received, says levels of possible contamination were found less than the values specified in IATA

November 16, 2015: Sunanda’s son Shiv Menon writes to Delhi Police chief BS Bassi, seeks constitution of independent medical board for providing definite opinion on the cause of death

January 12, 2016: AIIMS autopsy board gives the final and fourth opinion, saying cause of the death is ‘poisoning’ by excessive ingestion of tablet Alprazolam. It, however, doesn’t rule out possibility of injectable poisoning or death due to Lidocaine (found in FBI report) and Insulin or any other hypo-glycaemic agent

February 29, 2016: New independent board, constituted with doctors from Lady Hardinge Medical College, JIPMER Puducherry and PGIMER Chandigarh constituted

June 25, 2016: DGHS board rules out Lidocaine or Insulin being cause of death, seeks more data from the FBI

September 16, 2016: A team of Delhi police officers travels to the US to discuss certain observations made by AIIMS, seeks more clarification

The extra details have been received and a final meeting of the independent board is expected to ascertain the cause of death soon.

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