Almost a year after Sunanda Pushkar, Indo-Canadian businessperson and wife of Congress MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead in a five-star hotel in New Delhi, the Delhi Police has filed a case of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Adding a twist to the tale, a letter reportedly written by Tharoor to Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, alleging that the investigators are putting pressure on his domestic help to name him as the killer of his wife, has surfaced in the media.
On 17 January last year, 49-year-old Sunanda was found dead in suite No. 345 of Leela Palace Hotel in Chankayapuri, New Delhi. That brought to a tragic end a marriage that had been much celebrated in the Indian media. For both Sunanda and Tharoor, it was their third marriage. Tharoor was then the Minister of State for Human Resource Development in the Manmohan Singh government.
Just a day earlier, the couple had issued a joint statement saying they were distressed by a row over a series of “unauthorised tweets” relating to an alleged affair of Tharoor with a Pakistani journalist that had been posted from the then Union minister’s Twitter account. In the statement, the couple said they were “happily married and intended to remain that way”.
Initially, Sunanda’s death was suspected to be a case of suicide or accidental death due to an overdose of drugs. Though there were several unanswered questions over the nature of the death, the Delhi Police tread cautiously in its probe as Tharoor was a minister with the then ruling dispensation at the Centre. It’s only now that the police have claimed that it could be a case of well-planned murder.
This revelation comes after the police received the final report from a panel of doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, which stated that the death was caused by poisoning. A special investigation team has been formed to probe the case afresh. “A special investigation team has been set up, which will be closely monitored by DCP South, Additional DCP South, one inspector and an SHO,” Police Commissioner Bassi told reporters. “We will take all necessary steps as per our investigation plan.”
In the past week, the police have questioned more than 60 people, including the staff of the hotel where Sunanda was found dead. According to sources, a Delhi Police team also visited the Thiruvananthapuram hospital where Sunanda had been admitted a week prior to her death. The panel of doctors who conducted the postmortem also visited the scene of the alleged crime in the first week of November 2014 and examined the mattress on which Sunanda had been found dead.
On 7 January, several media reports claimed that the Delhi Police had served a notice to Tharoor asking him to join the investigation. According to the reports, the notice has been issued to the Congress MP under the provisions of Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which is the usual procedure to summon a witness for questioning. It was said that the special investigation team would be seeking clarifications from him on specific aspects of the case.
The reports also suggested that the special investigation team has prepared a detailed questionnaire for Tharoor, which includes questions relating to the bruises found on Sunanda’s body.
However, on 8 January, Delhi Police Commissioner Bassi clarified that Tharoor has not been served any legal notice.
At the time of going to press, the Congress MP was reportedly undergoing treatment at an ayurvedic centre in Kerala. He had already issued a statement to the media saying that he would fully cooperate with the probe.