For five-and-a-half months, the investigations into the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of the then union minister, Shashi Tharoor, made no headway. Delhi Police has been patiently waiting for a conclusive medical-forensic report.
Now, the startling allegation made by Dr Sudhir Gupta, head of the AIIMS forensic department, that pressure was put on him to give a tailor-made report in the case has woken up the cops from their stupor.
The claim has been made in an affidavit filed in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). But Dr Gupta has also written to the health ministry and the chief vigilance commissioner, alleging that he was being targeted because he didn’t give in to pressure. This has set the cat among the pigeons.
The AIIMS autopsy report had said Pushkar’s death in a hotel room was sudden and unnatural caused by drug poisoning while Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) had ruled that there was no poisoning. This had left the cops flummoxed. Sources said on Wednesday that a committee of forensic experts has been formed by CFSL to give its findings on priority. The case is now being given top priority.
Sunanda Pushkar (left) and Shashi Tharoor during their wedding on August 22, 2010.
Within hours of reports on Dr Gupta’s allegations appearing in the media, police commissioner B S Bassi briefed the home minister, Rajnath Singh, about the status of the case. Speaking to reporters, he said Dr Gupta may be questioned regarding his allegation that Tharoor had tried to influence the autopsy report.
Tharoor, said police sources, may very well be questioned over an email purportedly written by him from ID firstname.lastname@example.org to one Dr Rajiv Bhasin and Anil Chatta with a copy marked to his PS, Abhinav Kumar. This email is the part of the affidavit submitted by Dr Gupta. The cops will first verify the authenticity of this mail.
Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor (left) with husband Shashi Tharoor.
It reads: “I am drawing the attention of Dr Mishra of AIIMS through our mutual friend, Anil Chatta. I recall your fear that without regular hydration and salt intake, she could suffer from recurring episodes of dangerously low blood pressure. Clearly, this must have occurred since she was not eating or drinking properly for two or three days.”
This email was in reply to a “condolence” mail by Dr Bhasin which speculated that Sunanda may have died of drinking coconut water which may have elevated her serum potassium level and slowed her heart rate. Bhasin allegedly wrote: “If she took Alprax, it could have contributed to slowing down the heart rate and made it possibly difficult for her to call for help.”
There is another e-mail allegedly written by one Dr Anil Gupta from Dubai who wished to elaborate on her medical condition, pointing out that she had Lupus and got easily bruised, and that the media had been speculating on her bruises.
“We are trying to find out, first, if Tharoor indeed communicated the same to AIIMS and, second, if it amounts to an intervention in the probe. Chatta may also be questioned. The authenticity of the mails has to be ascertained first,” said a police officer, adding that a meeting had been held on Wednesday evening in this regard.
The investigators said their main hurdle has been establishing the cause of death because AIIMS and the forensic lab officials have been passing the buck. “The autopsy report had said that death was sudden and unnatural caused by drug poisoning. It was handed over to CFSL for further examination. In mid-March, the forensic lab sent its final report of viscera and toxicology examination to us saying there was no poisoning, a diametrically opposite finding,” said a cop.
The viscera report also ruled out Alprax, which is an anti-depressant pill, as the cause of death. This fact – first reported by satyamevjayates.com – had left the investigators puzzled as they had earlier recovered two strips of the tablet from Sunanda’s hotel room. One was empty while the other had three tablets.
When the cops forwarded this to AIIMS for an interpretation, the institute sent back a questionnaire countering the CFSL findings in the first week of June as reported in www.satyamevjayates.com. The cops said on Wednesday they were still waiting for a proper reply from CFSL.
“The attitude of the police and other authorities has been quite surprising. Neither did the police chief bother to form a special team to probe the case, nor did FSL or AIIMS show any hurry in moving ahead with the investigation. Such laxity in a high-profile case definitely raised many questions,” said a source.