Sunanda Pushkar Case: Tharoor to Contest Chargesheet ‘Vigorously’
Delhi Police filed a chargesheet in the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor under sections 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code, PTI reported. The next date of hearing in the case is 24 May, ANI reported.
The chargesheet, which runs into around 3,000 pages, has mentioned that Pushkar was allegedly subjected to mental as well as physical cruelty, according to PTI. The chargesheet was filed before Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh in Patiala House court.
Shashi Tharoor has reacted to the development in a tweet. He said that, “No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment” on his part, and that he would go on to contest the charge “vigorously”.
The couple's domestic servant Narayan Singh is one of the key witnesses in the case. The agency also urged the court to summon Tharoor. The chargesheet says the brothers and the son of Sunanda Pushkar have made "no allegations against anyone", reported PTI.
Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel room on 17 January, 2014.
The chargesheet was filed four years after Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in suite number 345 of the Leela Hotel in south Delhi. She was reportedly embroiled in a Twitter brawl with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over her alleged proximity with Tharoor, News18 reported.
The suite was sealed on 17 January 2014 during the investigation into the death of Pushkar. The Delhi Police on 16 October, 2017 de-sealed room No 345 of Hotel Leela.
Tharoor Condemns Abetment Charge; Congress Backs Tharoor
Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor, who has been arrayed as an accused in the case, slammed the Delhi police’s probe into the case.
In a series of tweets, he condemned the chargesheet filed against him.
Hours after the chargesheet was filed, Tharoor said he will shun the platform for a while to “focus on work.”
In his usual style, the logophile described his situation as a case of “epicaricacy”- a situation where people derive pleasure from the “misfortune of others.”
Congress extended support to Tharoor through its Twitter handle, deeming the charge as “politically motivated.”
AICC Spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala said, "There can be no more falsehood charge against Shashi Tharoor. The Delhi Police is seeking revenge on him. There was no suicide note. Is there a statement of any other witness?" Firstpost reported.
Opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said "using power, an attempt is being made by BJP to suppress and insult Congress leaders," PTI reported.
"There has been political interference in the case as Tharoor had severally criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Sangh Parivar on various occasions," Kerala PCC president M M Hassan said.
Chargesheet Based on Medico-Legal, Forensic Evidence: Delhi Police
Delhi Police said that the chargesheet filed in the Sunanda Pushkar case that accuses Tharoor of abetting her suicide was finalised on the basis of "medico-legal and forensic evidence," PTI reported.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Subramanium Swamy alleged that “all witnesses and documents were destroyed by UPA government and corrupt police.”
Swamy went on to say that he will assist the prosecutor in the case, and that he will appear in court on 24 May in a tweet.
What Sections 306 and 498A Entail
Under Section 306, ‘abetment’ covers instigation, conspiracy or aiding in a crime. According to the Supreme Court, for a person to be convicted under this charge, they need to have a clear intention to instigate the suicide, and some action by them which makes the deceased think they have no other option.
Section 498A covers cruelty committed against a woman by her husband or a relative of her husband. The provision is more widely known for punishing dowry harassment, but cruelty under this section also covers any “wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman.” This does not only cover physical abuse, but can also cover mental cruelty.
There is a presumption of abetment to suicide by a woman’s husband if she commits suicide within seven years of marriage and the husband had subjected her to cruelty as per Section 498A of the IPC. However, as the Supreme Court has pointed out in Painakin Mahipatray Rawal vs State of Gujarat (2013, SC), there is still a requirement on the prosecution to show that the husband has committed cruelty, without which the presumption would not apply.
Investigation Into the Case
The initial post-mortem report signalled she died due to poisoning but the poison couldn’t be identified.
After inquest proceedings were initiated, the SDM proceedings asked the police to find out the nature of poisoning and also to specifically probe whether this was a murder or a suicide, the News18 report added.
In the autopsy report conducted at AIIMS, the board identified two prominent injury marks. But after the examination of her viscera, the board arrived at the conclusion that Pushkar didn’t suffer from any ailments and hence died an unnatural death which could have been caused due to poisoning.
News18 reported that Sunanda's son Shiv Menon wrote to the then Delhi Police chief BS Bassi, requesting a wider medical board to be constituted due to an inconclusive AIIMS report.
BJP leader Subramamium Swamy had filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court on 6 July, seeking a court-monitored enquiry into the mysterious death of Pushkar. The High Court on 26 October, dismissed Swamy's petition in the Sunanda Pushkar death case, terming it as a “textbook example of a political interest litigation". Following which, Swamy moved the apex court.
SC had in February sought the response of the Delhi Police on a plea filed by Swamy, a News18 report added.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and News18)