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Sunanda Pushkar death case: Congress flays charges against Tharoor; updates

BS Web Team/ 15 May 18 | 08:50 AM

Sunanda Pushkar | Photo: Wikipedia

Over four years after Congress leader Shashi Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a hotel suite in the nationl apital, Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet in a court in Sunanda Pushkar's suicide case.  

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In the chargesheet, Delhi Police has accused Tharoor of abetting Pushkar's suicide, a charge he dubbed "preposterous" and his party called "baseless".

The Congress leader has been charged under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 498A (subjecting a woman to cruelty by her husband or his relative) of the Indian Penal Code, which entails a jail term that could extend up to 10 years.

The chargesheet was filed in the case on the basis of medico-legal and forensic evidence analysed during the investigation, as well as the opinion of experts regarding Pushkar's death, Delhi Police Chief Spokesperson Deependra Pathak said. 

The Congress, however, said that there "could be no more falsehood about this charge except that a conspiratorial BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were seeking revenge against Tharoor by using the Delhi Police which, he said, was a willing tool to subserve BJP's political agenda".

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala told the media that top BJP leaders had "conspired against Tharoor" and accused him of murdering his wife while the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police on Monday was for abetment of suicide.

Welcoming the charge sheet filed in the Sunanda Pushkar death case, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy on Monday accused the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and the former officials in the Delhi Police of destroying the evidence and witnesses

Pushkar, 51, was found dead in her suite at Leela Hotel in south Delhi, days after she alleged that her husband was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

There was no evidence of Pushkar's murder but she may have been driven to suicide as she had not been eating or even leaving her room days before her death, according to the chargesheet.

Here are the top 10 reactions and developments after Delhi Police filed the chargesheet:

1. AIIMS forensic head says chargesheet delayed, evidence destroyed: AIIMS forensic department head Sudhir Gupta, who headed the medical board conducting the autopsy, said the filing of chargesheet was delayed by four years during which a lot of evidence was destroyed.

Speaking to IANS, Gupta said: "From the beginning I had said the death was due to poisioning. We said it was due to alphrax poisoning...and could also be mixed poisoning and there were injuries on the body.

"So, it is not a natural death and not even accidental. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US) also confirmed the same thing. So, the only option left was either suicide or homicide, which was to be investigated by the police."

He said he had been saying "from the first day" that it could be either suicide or homicide. 

2. Congress flays chargesheet: The Congress on Monday cried foul over the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police against party MP Shashi Tharoor in the suicide case of his wife Sunanda Pushkar, saying the party would "neither cow down nor bow down" to the threats of Modi against its leaders.

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala told the media that top BJP leaders had "conspired against Tharoor" and accused him of murdering his wife while the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police on Monday was for abetment of suicide.

State Congress President M M Hassan said that the development was nothing but settling of political scores against Tharoor.

"This shows the Centre's fascist attitude and is a clear case of vindictness for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. We have seen that all those who attacked the Centre have been taken to task in the past, including members of the intelligentsia, politicians, and journalists. But the people know who and what Tharoor is," said Hassan. 

3. BJP demands Tharoor's resignation: Kerala BJP General Secretary M T Ramesh said Tharoor should quit from the Lok Sabha after the filing of the chargesheet on abetment to suicide and subjecting wife to cruelty.

"Since the UPA government was in power when the incident took place, Tharoor managed to get away which helped him tamper with evidence. He should now quit. Or else, the Congress should ask him to quit," said Ramesh.

The BJP women's wing will take out a protest march on Tuesday to demand his resignation. 

4. Shashi Tharoor announces break from Twitter: On a day the Delhi Police charged Shashi Tharoor with abetting his wife Sunanda Pushkar's suicide, the senior Congress leader said that he would stay off Twitter "for a while".

"Staying off @Twitter for a while -- one encounters too much epicaricacy!," he said in a tweet.

Tharror, in his tweet, also explained the meaning of the word 'epicaricacy': Rejoicing at or deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others.

Staying off @Twitter for a while -- one encounters too much epicaricacy! pic.twitter.com/znaj8vUl0R

— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) 14 May 20185. Charge sheet based on medico-legal, forensic evidence, says Delhi Police: Delhi Police on Monday said that the charge sheet filed in the Sunanda Pushkar case that accuses her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of abetting her suicide was finalised on the basis of "medico-legal and forensic evidence".

On the basis of medico-legal&forensic evidence analysed during investigation as well as opinion of Psychological Autopsy experts, Sunanda Pushkar case investigated by SIT of South District, has been charge-sheeted u/s 306/498-A IPC. The matter now is sub-judice: Delhi Police Spox pic.twitter.com/fdoooaBIzK

— ANI (@ANI) 14 May 2018

Tharoor is the only person who has been arrayed as an accused in the case. The police, in its charge sheet which runs into around 3,000 pages, has also alleged that Tharoor had subjected his wife to cruelty.

"On the basis of medico-legal and forensic evidence analysed during investigation as well as opinion of psychological autopsy experts, the charge sheet was filed. The matter is sub judice," said a Delhi Police spokesperson.

Psychological autopsy is a reconstructive mental state evaluation to understand an individual's mental state at and around the time of death for the purpose of identifying the cause of death.

6. Charges against Shashi Tharoor: The Congress leader has been charged under sections 498 A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

The charge sheet, which includes several annexures, said that Pushkar died within three years, three months and 15 days of her marriage with Tharoor, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram.

The couple had entered into wedlock on August 22, 2010.

Pushkar was found dead in the suite of the South Delhi hotel on January 17, 2014. The suite was sealed that night itself for investigation.

An FIR was registered by Delhi Police on January 1, 2015 against unidentified persons under IPC section 302 (murder).

7. Shashi Tharoor’s reply to the filing of chargesheet: Reacting to the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police, Shashi Tharoor said: '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 DelhiHighCourt that they have not found anything against anyone & now in 6 months they say that I have abetted a suicide. unbelievable!"

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) 14 May 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) 14 May 2018

8. What happens next? Generally, when a person is accused under Section 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty), he is immediately taken into custody. However, Shashi Tharoor has not been arrested. The case is likely to come up at Patiala House court next week where Shashi Tharoor would likely be present, reported Indian Express.

9. Swamy accuses Congress of destroying evidence: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Monday accused the then Congress-led UPA Government and the former officials in the Delhi Police of destroying the evidence and witnesses

"All witnesses and documents were destroyed by the UPA government and corrupt police officers. The new management in Delhi Police has conducted the investigation in a fair manner," Swamy told ANI.

10. Following is the chronology of events in the case - 

Jan 17, 2014: Pushkar found dead at Delhi's Leela Palace hotel, a day after she was involved in a Twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over the latter's alleged affair with Tharoor.Jan 21: The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) who was heading the inquest says Pushkar died of poisoning.Jan 23: The probe into the death of Pushkar transferred to the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.Jan 25: Case transferred back to Delhi Police.Jan 1, 2015: Delhi police registers FIR against unknown persons under the section of 302 (murder).Jan 15, 2016: Delhi Police receives AIIMS medical board's 'advice' on the FBI lab report on viscera samples of Pushkar 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 rules out the theory of 'polonium poisoning' having caused her death.July 6, 2017: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy moves HC for SIT probe into Sunanda Pushkar's death.Oct 26: HC dismisses Swamy's plea saying his PIL was a textbook example of political interest litigation.Jan 29, 2018: Swamy moves SC Feb 23: SC seeks reply of Delhi Police on Swamy's plea.Apr 20: Delhi Police, in its affidavit filed in the apex court, says a draft final report has been prepared after conducting "thorough professional and scientific investigations" in the case.May 14: Delhi Police files charge sheet in the case.With agency inputs

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