Delhi police propose murder charges in Sunanda Pushkar case

Counsel for Delhi police read out statements by witnesses and medical board opinions while urging the court to decide if Pushkar had been murdered or if Tharoor had been responsible for her suicide.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor addresses a press conference at AICC headquarters in New Delhi.(PTI)
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor addresses a press conference at AICC headquarters in New Delhi.(PTI)
Published on Aug 31, 2019 11:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Richa Banka

Delhi police on Saturday asked a city court to frame charges of murder or abetment to suicide against Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor in the case related to his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s death in 2014.

Counsel for Delhi police read out statements by witnesses and medical board opinions while urging the court to decide if Pushkar had been murdered or if Tharoor had been responsible for her suicide.

The case has seen many twists and turns since the night of January 17, 2014 when Pushkar, 51, was found dead in a luxury hotel suite in south Delhi. After not registering a case for several months, the police filed one of murder on January 1, 2015, but did not name any accused. It was only in May last year that the police filed a charge sheet in a city court accusing Tharoor of abetment to suicide and domestic violence.

“ Please frame sections 498-A, 306 or in alternative 302 IPC {Indian Penal Code} against the accused,” public prosecutor Atul Shrivastava told special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Saturday during arguments on the framing of charges against Tharoor.

Section 498-A deals with a husband or his relatives subjecting a woman to cruelty, 306 with abetment to suicide and 302 with murder.

The court did not make any observation and will hear arguments from Tharoor’s counsel, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, on October 17.

Pahwa countered the public prosecutor. “The prosecutor didn’t read opinions of experts who conducted psychological autopsy and held that it’s neither a case of homicide nor suicide but {a case of death} due to some unidentified biological reasons. If there is no evidence of suicide, where is the question of abetment to suicide,” he asked.

Tharoor’s lawyer also accused the prosecution of reading the evidence in “bits and pieces” and trying to connect them with the charges proposed by him, against the settled principles of law.

Prosecutor Shrivastava told the court that Pushkar was a healthy person and cited an independent medical opinion, which reportedly said the cause of her death was poisoning. He said the report had stated that “injecting of alprazolam cannot be ruled out”. Alprazolam is a drug used in short-term management of anxiety disorders.

Shrivastava alleged that Pushkar was experiencing not only physical harassment but also mental agony in the days leading up to her death. He read before the court a statement by Tharoor’s domestic help who reportedly said that the couple fought regularly and had a fight until 4.30am on the day of the incident.

Reading the man’s statement, the prosecutor told the court that the couple had a fight over a woman and that Pushkar had been “distressed” and “felt betrayed” in her marital life. He also said that Pushkar had a scuffle with her husband.

Shrivastava said that Pushkar’s death had been caused by poisoning and that 15 injury marks were found on parts of her body such as forearm, arms and legs.

“Tharoor’s relation with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar also added to her mental agony,” Shrivastava said, adding that Pushkar had also wanted to address a press conference related to an Indian Premier League controversy involving Tharoor and her; she reportedly told her domestic help that she would not spare Tharoor.

Tharoor’s lawyer Pahwa said he would rebut each and every point at the next hearing. “I can say that every bit of evidence collected by the SIT {special investigation team} speaks just the opposite to what the prosecutor has argued today....He was never cruel to his wife. On the contrary there are many statements which say that Dr Tharoor had always treated Sunanda with civility and respect, but (the statements were) not read,” the senior advocate said.

An email sent to Tharoor’s office seeking comment didn’t elicit a response. He had earlier described the police charge sheet in Pushkar’s death as preposterous and said he would contest the charges vigorously.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021