Suicide or foul play? More than six months after Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead in a Delhi hotel under mysterious circumstances, no one still knows if she killed herself or was murdered.
And now the plot has just thickened with the head of the team of doctors which conducted her autopsy saying he was asked by a ministerial colleague of Tharoor to certify the death as natural.
Dr Sudhir Gupta says he did not buckle under pressure and issued a factual report – “sudden and unnatural” death due to drug poisoning, which could be either suicidal or homicidal. Police had recovered two strips of Alprax, each containing 15 tablets, from the side of the bed on which Pushkar was found sprawled.
Read: Health minister seeks report on Sunanda Pushkar's death after doctor alleges 'pressure'
Predictably, a media storm has broken over the doctor’s charges. While the truth of Pushkar’s death is beholden to an honest investigation, the actions or the lack of them on the part of the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory and Delhi Police have raised uncomfortable questions about the case.
Sample this: After the initial autopsy by Gupta’s team at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the government forensic laboratory conducted the viscera and toxicology tests. Surprisingly, contrary to the initial autopsy findings, the viscera report ruled out poisoning or drug overdose.
Sunanda Pushkar's death was a murder: Subramanian Swamy
The toxicology report found no traces of drugs, although all but three of the 30-tablet strips of Alprax had been found empty. Further, the forensic report said the medicines had been taken in doses of 2 or 3 tablets at a time, concluding that the death was natural, perhaps from cardiac seizure triggered by a combination of factors, including Pushkar’s stressful lifestyle and medications.
But the AIIMS autopsy team had its doubts. The mystery deepens when you consider that the forensic laboratory refused to answer questions raised by the AIIMS team about certain aspects of the viscera report.
So why has the forensic lab been silent? Did she or did she not consume the tablets? The AIIMS autopsy report suggests she did. Then, why did the toxicology test not find any trace of drugs? Or were the Alprax strips planted there?
Tharoor sent two emails to Dr Gupta
Here comes the role of Delhi Police whose performance has been less than stellar in this case. It would seem a valid question to ask why the police did not find the contradictory reports suspicious.
Even if the forensic report appeared to suggest no foul play, why did the police not investigate another key finding of the autopsy report - over a dozen injury marks on Pushkar’s hands and an abrasion on her cheek, suggesting "use of blunt force", besides a "deep teeth bite" on the edge of her left palm?
In as early as March, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi had ruled out registering an FIR, saying circumstantial evidence and statement of witnesses did not warrant such a move. Could it be that the police were prejudging the reasons of the mysterious death?
Again, the shroud of secrecy over the report by sub-divisional magistrate Alok Sharma, who oversaw the investigations into Pushkar's death, only helps feed conspiracy theories.
Amid the litany of unanswered questions, the allegation by Dr Gupta will only add new grist to a mysterious death that may eventually turn out to be an intriguing whodunnit.
Read: Women in love: rise and fall of Sunanda Pushkar, Valerie Trierweiler
Read: Sunanda Pushkar died an unnatural sudden death say AIIMS doctors; body cremated