New Delhi (PTI): Over four years after Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a hotel suite here, the Delhi Police on Monday charged the senior Indian National Congress leader with abetting her suicide, claiming there was enough evidence to proceed against him.
(VOICE adds: Back in 2014, the Toronto Star reported that Pushkar was a Canadian citizen who moved to Toronto in 1999 with her son, but her stay was “a bit of a mystery.” Pushkar is said to have moved to Toronto with her son Shiv (from her second marriage) from Dubai with a banker of Pakistani origin reportedly after financial losses. Her second husband returned to India where he allegedly committed suicide in 1997. Pushkar, who first met Tharoor in 2009 in Dubai when he was still married to Christa Giles, a Canadian diplomat he had met at the UN, married him in 2010. Read more on this below)
Tharoor, 62, dismissed as “preposterous” the nearly 3,000-page charge sheet filed before a city court and asserted he intends to contest it “vigorously” while the Congress stood by the Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram and a former international civil servant, alleging it is a “conspiracy” by the Modi government to defame him.
In a blow to Tharoor, the suave Congress leader is the only person to be arrayed as an accused in the case in which the police have concluded that it was a case of suicide and not murder. A case (First Information Report or FIR) was registered by Delhi Police on January 1, 2015, against unknown persons under Indian Penal Code section 302 (murder).
The police has also alleged that Tharoor had subjected his wife to cruelty.
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 IPC. While section 498 A entails maximum punishment of three years in prison, the section 306 attracts a maximum jail term of 10 years.
Pushkar’s death had created a sensation as it came shortly after a bitter spat between the couple over twitter over his alleged affair with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar. Pushkar, 51,was found dead in a suite in Hotel Leela, a luxury hotel in Chanakyapuri, on the night of January 17, 2014.
The charge sheet in the mysterious death of Pushkar was filed before Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmendra Singh, who will consider it on May 24. The agency while asking the court to take cognizance of the charge sheet said there was enough evidence to proceed against Tharoor. It urged the court to summon Tharoor as an accused.
The couple’s domestic servant Narayan Singh is one of the key witnesses in the case.
The charge sheet that includes several annexures noted that Pushkar died within four years of her marriage. The couple had entered into wedlock on August 22, 2010. It was the third marriage for both Tharoor and Pushkar.
According to prosecution sources, the charge sheet has mentioned that Pushkar was allegedly subjected to mental as well as physical cruelty.
After all the possible and material evidence collected and verified, it was felt that his custodial interrogation would not be required in the case at this stage.
Tharoor has not been arrested in the case as he had joined the investigation when required.
“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.
Tharoor took to twitter to respond to the charge sheet.
“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,” he tweeted.
“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 Delhi High Court that they have not found anything against anyone & now in 6 months they say that I have abetted a suicide. unbelievable!,” Tharoor added.
AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the charge sheet was a conspiracy to defame and malign Tharoor.
“We won’t cow down or bow down,” he said, alleging, “This is a conspiracy to defame Shashi Tharoor and malign him and the Modi government is using Delhi Police.”
“We reject the charges totally… Where is the charge coming from?….It is coming from the BJP headquarters…it is coming from the factory of lies.”
The Congress in the southern state of Kerala described the chrage sheet as ‘politically motivated’ while a state BJP leader demanded the MP’s resignation.
Opposition leader in the Kerala assembly Ramesh Chennithala said: “Using power, an attempt is being made by BJP to suppress and insult Congress leaders.”
On several occasions, “wrong” reports have been given to the media with regard to the case to “insult” Tharoor, the Congress leader said in a statement.
BJP leader M T Ramesh demanded that Tharoor immediately resign as an MP.
The Toronto Star had reported in 2014 that Jacob Joseph Puthenparambil, a digital media specialist in Singapore who was chief of staff for Tharoor from early 2009 to June 2010, said that after her husband’s death, her son, who was them 5 or 6, stopped talking because of shock. Pushkar learned that she could get care in Canada for Shiv, who was an actor living in Mumbai in 2014.
She told Tehelka, a weekly news magazine in New Delhi, in 2010 that she started life in Canada from scratch, doing odd jobs for some time before getting into the IT sector.
She said that they tied up with companies like Compaq and headhunted in India for them. Then she started working with a San Francisco company called Valley Resources and made good money, enrolling her son in a private school.
She also reportedly worked for Noble House International, a global real estate company. In 2004, a company called Best Homes sent her to Dubai to set up its real estate operations.
The Star said that she bought a house for $325,000 in Markham in December 2000, according to property records, and that the house is still in her name.
“According to a declaration of assets in January 2013, she listed 12 apartments in Dubai: some rented out, some still under construction. The total value of her assets, including jewelry and cars, was approximately $21 million. The declaration is available on the Indian prime minister’s website, the Star reported.