New Delhi: Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor has been charged with abetment to suicide of his wife Sunanda Pushkar in 2014. Tharoor is the only person who has been arrayed as an accused in the case.
The Delhi police in its charge sheet, which runs into around 3,000 pages, has also alleged that Tharoor had subjected his wife to cruelty. The chargesheet has been filed more than four years after Tharoor’s wife was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Delhi hotel room.
It concluded that Pushkar killed herself and hence no one has been charged with murder. The chargesheet was filed before Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh under sections 498 A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
The chargesheet mentions marital discord as the cause of suicide and says that one party led the other to commit suicide. “Sunanda Pushkar was being harassed for long. Her medical records show she was suffering from depression,” the chargesheet said.
Tharoor has not been arrested because he is an MP and has cooperated in the probe and there was no danger of him escaping, police said.
Tharoor has responded to the chargesheet in two tweets, calling it preposterous and said that he would contest it vigorously. “No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment on my part. If this is conclusion arrived at after 4+ yrs of investigation, it does not speak well of the methods or motivations of the Delhi Police,” he wrote.
1/2 I have taken note of the filing of this preposterous charge sheet &intend to contest it vigorously. No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment on my part. If this is conclusion arrived at after 4+ yrs of investigation, (contd.) — Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 14, 2018
2/2) it does not speak well of the methods or motivations of the Delhi Police. In oct 17, the Law Officer made a statement in the DelhiHighCourt that they have not found anything against anyone & now in 6 months they say that I have abetted a suicide. unbelievable! — Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 14, 2018
The court is likely to take cognisance of the chargesheet on May 24, where the Delhi Police would press for summoning Tharoor. The public prosecutor said that as per legal procedure Tharoor can only be summoned by the court as he is a suspect in the case.
Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel room on January 17, 2014, days after being embroiled in a Twitter war with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over the latter’s alleged closeness with Tharoor.
The initial post mortem said her death was due to poisoning. While traces of Alzolam was found in her body and a strip of the sleeping pills found in her room, the actual poison couldn't be confirmed.
Inquest proceedings were conducted under the supervision of a Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) as the marriage was less than seven years old. The SDM report asked police to further investigate the death. SDM Alok Sharma asked the police to find out the nature of poisoning and also to specifically probe whether this was a murder or a suicide.
Sunanda's autopsy was done at AIIMS by a board of doctors headed by Dr Sudhir Gupta, who in his report had said that she had 15 injury marks on her body, most of which did not contribute to death. But there were two injury marks — an injection mark and some bite marks. The autopsy report also said that there was presence of excess amount of alprazolam drug in her stomach.
The board later examined Pushkar's viscera and concluded that she was completely fit before her death without any ailments or diseases and did not need any medicines. The board also said that the death was unnatural and caused due to poisoning.
Based on this report, the police registered a murder case which refrained from naming any accused.
A year after Sunanda's death, a formal police probe began. Soon the viscera samples were sent to FBI labs to determine the poison. The FBI report mentioned that Aprazolam and Hydroxy Chloroquine were detected in the samples, but it also said on radio-chemistry examination of viscera samples received that levels of possible contamination were found less than the values specified in IATA.
When the AIIMS report was inconclusive on the cause of the death, Sunanda's son Shiv Menon wrote to the then Delhi Police chief BS Bassi, saying if AIIMS couldn't confirm the cause of his mother's death, why can't other doctors be consulted. That's when the wider medical board was constituted. The final report will be based on the opinion given by this independent board.
The political heat in this case increased when the government at the Centre changed from Congress-led UPA to BJP-led NDA.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy filed a PIL in Delhi High Court, wherein he first sought a CBI probe into the death of Sunanda Pushkar and then asked for a joint multi-agency team to investigate the case. Earlier, he had asked the Home Ministry to hand over the case to CBI, but the Home Ministry had then replied to him saying that the Delhi Police SIT is at an advanced stage of investigation and if the case is transferred to CBI at this stage, it would only lead to further delay.
But when High Court dismissed his petition, Swamy moved Supreme Court. The top court had in February sought the response of the Delhi Police on a plea filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into Sunanda’s death.