Woman Relative, Failed Ambition, Delhi Mansion: The Murky Mystery Behind Rohit Shekhar's Death
Apoorva Shukla did not like her husband’s closeness to his cousin’s wife and had made it clear. Yet, according to her, the two shared a glass of liquor after casting their vote in Uttarakhand.
File photo of ND Tiwari along with wife Ujjwala and son Rohit (File photo)
New Delhi: The sudden death of Rohit Shekhar, Uttarakhand’s former chief minister ND Tiwari’s son, is nothing short of a thriller. From assumptions of a natural death due to alcoholism to postmortem report stating strangulation, the case has seen many twists before the spotlight came on lawyer wife, Apoorva Shukla.
Shukla was arrested on Wednesday and sent to two-day police custody by a Delhi court. But it wasn’t easy to get the truth out of Shekhar’s wife, say police, crediting her “lawyer mind”.
“She tried to twist statement and evade questions. It’s only when she ran out of stories, she revealed about her turbulent married life,” a senior officer said.
Already grappling with matrimonial problems, Shukla’s failed ambitions of a high-life and political career and property issue pushed her to the edge, and resulted in the murder of her husband.
Last Nail in the Coffin: Glass of Liquor and Woman Relative
Shukla did not like her husband’s closeness to his cousin’s wife and had made it clear. But despite that the relative would come to their Defence Colony house during family gathering or functions.
On April 10, Shekhar had gone to Uttarakhand’s Haldwani along with some of his relatives to cast his vote. The next day, when he was scheduled to return, Shukla apparently made a video call to him while he was on his way and noticed that Shekhar was drinking along with his cousins, including the woman relative.
A senior officer said that Shukla revealed that her husband told her that the woman relative and he were sharing the same glass.
After Shekhar returned home around 10 pm, his wife served him dinner. One of his cousins had come to their residence along with his wife and returned to their Tilak Lane bungalow after having dinner with Ujjwala Sharma, Shekhar’s mother.
This was the same relative’s wife that Shukla disliked.
Shekhar sat along with his wife and mother for some time but soon retired to his room on the first floor since he was tired.
Around 12.45 am, Shukla went to Rohit's room after watching TV. While they were in the room, the couple had an argument, the officer said.
According to Rajeev Ranjan, additional commissioner of police (crime), Shukla allegedly smothered and strangulated her husband who was too inebriated to offer any resistance. Post-mosterm suggested he could have died around 1 am as his dinner was semi-digested.
How Police Zero-in on Apoorva Shukla
It took four days for the Crime Branch and police officers to join the sequence of events and narrowed down on Shekhar’s wife.
On the fateful day, there were six people in the house. Of the six, only three had access to the first floor — Shukla, domestic help Golu and driver Akhilesh.
During several rounds of interrogation, Golu and Akhilesh stuck to their statements. They were being paid on time and had a satisfactory job. Hence, they were given a clean chit.
According to the CCTV footage, Shekhar’s relatives did not go upstairs.
While mother and other relatives returned to their Tilak Lane bungalow and his servants also went to their room. His half-brother had also retired to his room, the officer said.
Next day, at around 2.30 pm, Shekhar’s mother came to his house and asked about him. Shukla said that he was sleeping. His mother did not disturb him as she knew that he had insomnia and he used to sleep late in the evening.
Later at around 4 pm, one of his servants noticed that he was not responding and was bleeding through his nose, police said.
Shekhar’s mother was at Max Hospital in Saket for treatment when she received a call from home that he was unwell. She then took an ambulance that brought Rohit to the hospital. He was declared brought dead and his body was sent for the postmortem to the AIIMS.
Police found out that it was only Shukla who went to the first floor that day and was also changing her statements.
Apoorva Shukla’s Changing Statements
During interrogation, Shukla was confronted with facts and kept changing statements often. She even tried to mislead investigators by claiming that she might have accidentally strangulated Shekhar while they were getting intimate.
“Shukla was improving with her lie every day. She was changing her statements and we were able to see through her lies,” said a senior police officer privy to the investigation, adding that only after she ran out of stories that she confessed her crime.
She had smothered and strangulated him on his bed on the fateful night, the police said, adding she stayed in the room for some time after the incident. She later retired to her room where she could not sleep the entire night, said another officer.
Special CP Crime Satish Golcha said, “We wanted to have concrete evidence so that the case doesn’t fall flat in the court, hence the team took time to arrest.”
Rajiv Ranjan, Additional CP Crime, said that the murder does not seem to be pre-planned, it happened in a fit of rage.
Police said the bedsheet, the mattress and other samples from the room have been sent for forensic examination while the viscera report is yet to come which will establish whether he was drugged before being killed.
Ranjan later told IANS that Shukla destroyed the evidences. “She entered Rohit’s room on April 16 and executed the crime. She later destroyed the evidences. All this happened within one-and-half hours,” said the officer.
Apoorva’s Ambition and Her Turbulent Marriage
Shukla, a 35-year-old lawyer from Madhya Pradesh, met Rohit Shekhar through a matrimonial website in 2017 and got married in May 2018, said an officer, adding she was aware he was the son of former Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister N D Tiwari.
An ambitious woman, she claimed to be the president of Indian National Trade Union Congress in Indore and had political aspirations but after getting married to Rohit Shekhar in May, she realised that he did not have much of a standing and his political career was not going anywhere.
During their courtship period, they even separated for three months and later mended ways. They got married in 2018 but started living separately within a fortnight.
“Sometimes, she would stay at her parents’ place and sometimes at a rented room she had in south Delhi even before she got married,” the officer said.
Shukla went to Indore for some time and returned in August 2018 with a legal notice, stating Shekhar was “not a good husband”.
Vedanta Verma, the lawyer who fought the long battle of Shekhar’s paternity suit, said he was contemplating divorce from his wife.
The couple had a turbulent married life and on more than one occasion, Rohit had sought Verma's assistance in this regard.
“Rohit did express his desire to take divorce from Apoorva. However, the final decision regarding divorce was not communicated to me. He did not give me a go-ahead regarding it,” he said. The couple had issues since day one of their marriage. However, Verma denied reports about Rohit having an affair with his sister-in-law.
Families Tried to Keep Them Together
“In July, while he was undergoing bypass surgery and was admitted to a hospital, she had served him a legal notice saying she did not want to live with him. But both the families made the couple sit down and counselled them and advised them to give the marriage a second chance,” said the officer, who was privy to the probe.
According to neighbours, many a times PCR has reached their residence because of a fight. She aimed for luxurious life, which she didn’t find after marriage.
The officer said Shukla claimed during the interrogation that there was “no love, no understanding” and the problems were compounded due to a will that had been made before she got married to Rohit Shekhar.
The Property Dispute
The couple’s 300sqft Defence Colony residence, whose property evaluation would be in crores, was in Ujjwala’s name.
She had made the will before Shekhar’s marriage. According to the will, 40% of the house was in the name of Siddhartha, Ujjwala’s son from her first husband, and 60% was in Rohit’s name.
If one of them died, the property would be transferred to the other son or to the mother. As the will was made before Shekhar’s marriage, it continued as it is and Shukla didn’t have share in it.
Also, it was found during interrogation that Siddhartha had decided to give his share to their cousin’s son.
This relative and his wife used to call Ujjwala ‘Maa’. He was the son of Ujjwala’s first husband’s cousin. The cousin stayed with Shekhar’s mother at their Tilak Lane residence.
Even Shekhar had said he would give his share of property to the nine-year-old son, which had angered Shukla who felt she was not getting anything from the marriage, the officer said.
He is the same cousin whose wife was apparently close to Shekhar, as claimed by Shukla.
Shekhar’s lawyer Vedanta Verma, however, said that there was no angle of any property dispute. “To the best of my knowledge, there was no property dispute. Even the house that Rohit lived in was owned by his mother,” the lawyer said.
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