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“Years of absolute torture”: Shashi Tharoor hails court’s verdict on wife’s death

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who was charged with abetment to suicide and cruelty in his wife, Sunanda Pushkar’s death case in 2014, was seen celebrating Delhi court’s verdict on Wednesday calling it to be “seven-and-half years of absolute torture”.

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Tharoor, former union minister, who is currently on bail in the case, was chargesheeted by Delhi Police under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Tharoor’s wife Pushkar was found dead in the suite of a luxury hotel in the city on the night of January 17, 2014, following which the police had charged Tharoor with abetment to suicide, among other charges.

The court on August 18 refused to frame charges against Mr Tharoor, 65, and cleared the former Union Minister of all charges.

“Most grateful, your honour. It’s been seven-and-half years of absolute torture. I really appreciate it,” Mr Tharoor thanked the court.

In a longer statement later, he wrote that his family would finally mourn Sunanda Pushkar in peace. “This brings a significant conclusion to the long nightmare which had enveloped me after the tragic passing of my late wife Sunanda. I have weathered dozens of unfounded accusations and media vilification patiently, sustained my faith in the judiciary, which today stands vindicated,” he wrote.

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Mr Tharoor said in the current system of justice, the process was all too often the punishment.

The Congress leader, seeking his discharge, had told the court that evidence showed the death of Sunanda Pushkar was neither a suicide nor homicide.

The death should be considered an accident, he had said, as Ms Pushkar had been struggling with various medical ailments at the time of her death.

“Not even a single witness” had made any allegations of dowry, harassment or cruelty against Mr Tharoor, his lawyer Vikas Pahwa had argued.

The lawyer also said a Special Investigation team had exonerated the politician.

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After years of investigation by the police, the prosecution had failed to conclusively establish the cause of Ms Pushkar’s death, the court was told.

Mr Tharoor and Ms Pushkar married in 2010. Her death four years later triggered shock and speculation in political circles, especially as some of her last tweets hinted at a rift between the two and appeared to accuse the MP of an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

The police had first claimed that Sunanda Pushkar was poisoned. A year later, they registered a murder case without naming any suspect.

Mr Tharoor, frequently targeted by political rivals over the case, had called the charges “preposterous and baseless” and the product of a “malicious and vindictive campaign”.

For the unversed, an FIR against Shashi Tharoor was filed in 2015 regarding Sunanda Pushkar’s death. Apart from the charges of abetment to suicide, he was also accused of marital cruelty.

Later, Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava said Pushkar was subjected to mental cruelty which led to her deteriorating. It was not an accidental death, the public prosecutor contended relying on the post mortem report which suggests that the cause of death is poisoning which could be oral or injected.

The statement of Sunanda Pushkar’s son also played a crucial role in the case. In his statement, he had said, “In the Mortuary of AIIMS, I asked the doctor who conducted the post mortem about the case of death, he (doctor) responded that there is no foul play or poisoning but the same doctor later went into the media and said that death is due to poisoning. Shashi can’t harm even a fly.”

A day before Sunanda Pushkar’s death, she engaged with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarat in a Twitter spat over Tharoor’s alleged affair with Mehr. Reports said doctors revealed that Pushkar had several injury marks on ger hands which led the sub-divisional mafistrate to conclude that it was a case of poisoning. There were reports of doctor claiming to be under pressure to alter the autopsy report. In 2015, the Delhi Police concluded that Pushkar was murdered. In 2018, the chargesheet was filed.

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