Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor
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With inputs from Rajesh Sharma
It had all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler. A charming diplomat-turned-politician, a glamorous businesswoman who had seemed to have found durable happiness with him after being unlucky in love, and a whiff a cross-border extra-marital love affair that threatened to break the idyllic union.
Just hours before Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in her suite at Hotel Leela Palace in New Delhi, she had exchanged a series of messages with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, accusing her of having a fling with her husband Shashi Tharoor.
Two days later, the doctors who conducted a postmortem on her body at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said that it appeared to be a case of sudden, unnatural death. She had injury marks on her body and nominal traces of anti-anxiety drug Alprazolam were found in her stomach.
Seven years after her mysterious death, a Delhi court delivered its verdict today clearing Shashi Tharoor of charges linked to the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar in 2014. Here’s everything you need to know about the case and the trial:
January 16, 2014: Sunanda Pushkar and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar have a spat on Twitter over the latter’s alleged affair with Shashi Tharoor.
January 17: Pushkar is found dead in Hotel Leela Palace’s suite no 345. Police suspect suicide but the possibility of drug overdose is not ruled out since Pushkar was undergoing medical treatment.
Autopsy report says death was sudden and unnatural; lists drug poisoning as the cause.
November 13: Tharoor objects to Delhi Police’s interrogation tactics. Writes to top cop, alleging his staff was assaulted.
December 29: AIIMS report reiterates that the cause of death was poisoning.
January 6, 2015: Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi says Pushkar was murdered. FIR under IPC Section 302 (murder) registered.
Delhi Police SIT questions suspects and witnesses afresh; Sunanda’s viscera samples sent to FBI lab in the US for tests.
February 12: Shashi Tharoor questioned twice within a week for several hours each. Delhi police’s Economic Offences Wing probes “money laundering” angle.
May-June: Tharoor’s associate Sanjay Dewan and domestic helps Narain and Bajrangi put through polygraph test.
November: Viscera test report received from FBI; says no radioactive substance found.
February 2016: Shashi Tharoor questioned again.
April: Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar examined by Delhi police.
May: Health ministry sets up new panel of doctors to analyse forensic evidence.
July 2017: Police reject Leela Hotel’s request to restore use of suite no. 345 for guests.
August: Delhi HC questions delay in probe.
October: Delhi police allow Leela Hotel to reopen suite no. 345 for guests.
January 2018: Police carry out forensic psychology examination on suspects.
May 14: Chargesheet filed; concludes that Pushkar committed suicide and names Tharoor as the main accused for abetment. Chargesheet says Pushkar killed herself by consuming an overdose of anti-depressant Alprazolam (Alprax).
June 5: A Delhi court takes cognisance of the charges filed against Tharoor.
July 5: Anticipatory bail granted to Tharoor. Court says saying Delhi Police had not brought anything on record to show if he had tried to influence witnesses or tampered with evidence.
July 7: Tharoor secures regular bail. He is also exempted from making a personal appearance for the next hearing on July 26.
February 2019: Tharoor case moved to sessions court.
August 20: Post-mortem report of Sunanda death case says body had 15 bruises.
November 26: Tharoor seeks a copy of Pushkar’s tweets. A Delhi court reserves order.
February 24, 2020: Tharoor moves court to preserve wife’s Twitter account
November 10: HC cautions TV anchor Arnab Goswami to “exercise restraint” and not conduct a media trial in the Pushkar death case.
March 17, 2021: Tharoor seeks discharge from Sunanda Pushkar case. His lawyers argue that no criminal case was established against the parliamentarian. The court is also informed that in the present case neither had anyone filed a complaint nor given any statement alleging cruelty against Pushkar.
April 12: Tharoor cites seven-year wait for justice, seeks discharge.
August 18: Court clears Shashi Tharoor of all charges
A version of this story was published on May 13