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A Mysterious Death, Allegations & Long Wait for Answers: Timeline of the Sunanda Pushkar Death Case

Several reports said the doctors who conducted Pushkar’s postmortem revealed she had a dozen injury marks on her hands and an abrasion on her cheek. (File photo)

Several reports said the doctors who conducted Pushkar’s postmortem revealed she had a dozen injury marks on her hands and an abrasion on her cheek. (File photo)

Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a luxury hotel in the city on the night of January 17, 2014.

Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court on Wednesday cleared Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of charges in the case involving the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a luxury hotel in the city on the night of January 17, 2014. Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava had stressed that Pushkar underwent mental cruelty which led to her bad health. The Public Prosecutor also argued that it was not an accidental death and relied on the post mortem report which suggested that the cause of death is poisoning which could be oral or injected.

Here is a timeline of one of the most mysterious and controversial cases:

• January 16, 2014: Sunanda Pushkar engages in a war of words with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Shashi Tharoor.

• January 17, 2014: Pushkar is found dead under mysterious circumstances at Delhi’s Leela Palace hotel. Owing to her medical history, suspicion of suicide and the possibility of drug overdose were probed.

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• January 19, 2014: Several reports said the doctors who conducted Pushkar’s postmortem revealed she had a dozen injury marks on her hands and an abrasion on her cheek. They added that anti-anxiety drug Aprazolam was present in her body in “nominal traces” and that there were “no findings suggestive of drug overdose”.

• January 21, 2014: The Sub-Divisional Magistrate heading the inquest says Pushkar died of poisoning.

• January 23, 2014: The probe is transferred to the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. The same day, traces of two medicines – Alprazolam, an anti-depressant and Excedrin, a painkiller – were found in her body.

• January 25, 2014: The case is transferred back to Delhi Police.

• July 2, 2014: Dr Sudhir Gupta, an AIIMS doctor who was leading the panel that conducted Pushkar’s postmortem, alleged that he was being pressured to alter the autopsy report, the Indian Express reported.

• September 30, 2014: Viscera report submitted by AIIMS doctor to Delhi Police.

• January 1, 2015: The then Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi concluded that Pushkar’s death was caused by murder and not suicide. Delhi police registers FIR against unknown persons under Section 302 (murder).

• January 15, 2015: Delhi Police receives AIIMS medical board’s advice on the US FBI lab report on Pushkar’s viscera samples to identify the cause of her death.

• Her viscera samples were sent to the FBI lab in Washington DC in February 2015 to determine the kind of poison that killed her after an AIIMS medical board identified poisoning as the reason behind her death, but did not mention any specific substance.

• The FBI report virtually ruled out the theory of ‘polonium poisoning’ having caused her death.

• November 2015: Delhi Police asks journalist Nalini Singh for help. Singh was allegedly one of the last persons to speak to Pushkar. According to Indian Express, Pushkar had allegedly sought Singh’s help to retrieve messages between Tharoor and Tarar.

• February 2016: Tharoor is questioned by a Special Investigation Team of Delhi Police where he claims Pushkar died of a drug overdose.

• March 2016: Tarar meets a senior officer after coming to Delhi, and denies any connection or knowledge of Pushkar’s death.

• July 2017: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy moves Delhi High Court for SIT probe into Sunanda Pushkar’s death.

• October 26, 2017: High Court dismisses Swamy’s plea, calling his PIL a textbook example of a ‘political interest litigation’.

• January 2018: Swamy moves the Supreme Court asking for a SIT probe and alleges that there was a one-year delay for the Delhi Police to lodge an FIR in the case.

• February 2018: SC seeks reply of Delhi Police on Swamy’s plea.

• April 2018: Delhi Police says a draft final report has been prepared after conducting “thorough professional and scientific investigations" in the case.

• May 2018: Delhi Police files chargesheet in the case.

• May 2018: Case transferred to Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court, a special designated court to try politicians.

• May 2018: Court reserves order on whether to summon Tharoor as an accused in the case.

• June 2018: Court summons Tharoor as accused in Sunanda Pushkar’s case, says there are sufficient grounds to proceed against him.

• August 2019: Delhi Police urge a city court to prosecute the Congress MP for abetment to suicide or “in alternative" on murder charge in the case of death of his wife. “Please frame sections 498-A(husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty), 306 (abetment of suicide) or in alternative 302 (murder) IPC against the accused (Tharoor)," the probe agency told special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar.

• February 2020: The Delhi High Court seeks AAP government’s response on Tharoor’s plea that the police be directed to place before the trial court certain tweets of his wife before her death in 2014. Tharoor claimed that the tweets of his wife, in the days prior to her death, would be an indication of her state of mind.

• June 2020: Tharoor approaches the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the police to take steps to preserve the Twitter account and tweets made by his wife prior to her death.

• July 2021: A Delhi court adjourns for nearly a month the order on whether to put Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on trial in a case related to his wife’s death. During the arguments, while police had sought framing of various charges, including 306 (abetment of suicide), Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Tharoor, told the court that the investigation conducted by the SIT completely exonerated the politician of all the charges levelled against him.

• August 2021: Delhi court clears Tharoor of all charges.

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first published:August 18, 2021, 09:27 IST