Indian MP Shashi Tharoor named as accused in wife Sunanda Pushkar death case

Leader of Indian National Congress, writer and former diplomat Shashi Tharoor (pictured) was named as accused in the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar whose body was found in a luxury hotel room in New Delhi on January 17, 2014.

Tharoor was attending a late Congress meeting in the capital and his party was still ruling the country when the incident happened.

In a tweet on Monday, Tharoor called the 200-page charge sheet “preposterous” and said he will contest it “vigorously”.

Delhi police alleged that Tharoor had subjected his wife to cruelty. They filed the charge sheet before metropolitan magistrate Dharmendra Singh who will consider it on May 24.

The charge sheet urged the court to summon Tharoor as an accused. It was filed under sections 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

Tharoor reacted to the filing of the charge sheet through a long tweet.

“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 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 Delhi High Court that they have not found anything against anyone & now in 6 months they say that I have abetted a suicide. unbelievable,” he said.

Twists and turns

Sunanda’s body was found in room number 345 of the Leela Palace hotel in Chanakyapuri where the couple had moved to as their house was being renovated.

Tharoor was the first to find Sunanda dead after returning to the hotel from the party meeting, his then private secretary Abhinav Kumar told media.

Tharoor informed the Delhi Police, who recovered the body from the hotel and sent it for post-mortem.

The preliminary post-mortem report by Dr Sudhir Gupta of the forensic wing of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi,  said the death was unnatural and sudden due to the overdose of Alprax tablets used to treat panic disorders and stress.

Although Sunanda and Tharoor had a happy life after their traditional marriage in 2010, all the hell broke loose on 15 January 2014 after a series of intimate messages supposedly sent by the Pakistani journalist Mehar Tarar to Tharoor was posted on his Twitter account. The messages proclaimed Tarar’s love for Tharoor.

Tarar immediately tried to downplay the incident by saying her account had been hacked. But Sunanda said the account had not been hacked and that she herself had posted the messages to expose Mehr “stalking” her husband.

Later, Sunanda stated that she did not want to go public about the matter, especially in an election year crucial for Tharoor. The couple patched up.

The next day, a note on Tharoor’s Facebook page said the couple was happily married and that some personal comments not intended for publication had been misrepresented after being posted to Twitter. The note also said that earlier Sunanda had been hospitalised and is still being treated for Lupus erythematosus, a deadly immune disorder which damages healthy tissues.

The case would have have been dismissed as suicide but for the injury marks found on her body.  The Delhi Sub-Divisional Magistrate ordered a fresh inquiry to ascertain whether it was a case of murder or suicide.

On 1 July 2014, Dr Gupta of AIIMS claimed he was pressured to give a false post-mortem report in the case.

On 10 October 2014, the medical team probing her death concluded that she died of poisoning. On 6 January 2015, Delhi Police reported that Sunanda was murdered and they filed a case.

The special investigation team questioned seven people including Shashi Tharoor. Six of them had to undergo polygraph test.

Sunanda’s domestic help alleged that she often fought with Tharoor and days before her murder, she had threatened Tharoor that she would “disclose everything” and as such, he was “finished”.

The investigators also examined the call and chat details on Sunanda’s phone.