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Indian minister's wife's autopsy points to drug overdose

Publication Date : 21-01-2014


India's home ministry has ordered investigators to speed up a probe into the death of Ms Sunanda Pushkar, even as Indian media reported that the wife of federal minister Shashi Tharoor could have died of a drug overdose.

The final autopsy report was handed to a magistrate looking into Pushkar's death by a team of three doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Monday.

While details of the report were not made public, media reports said the autopsy ruled that Pushkar could have overdosed on drugs after two strips of anti-depressants were discovered in the hotel suite where she was found last week.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the probe had been expedited but did not say when it would be completed.

Following Hindu custom on Monday, Tharoor, the junior minister for human resources development, immersed the ashes of his wife in the River Ganges in the holy city of Haridwar.

He asked for a speedy investigation on Sunday, saying he was "horrified to read the reckless speculation rampant" in the media. He wanted the truth about her death to come out, he said.

On Sunday, he recorded his statement before a magistrate on the events leading up to the discovery of Pushkar's body in a luxury hotel suite.

The magistrate also recorded the statements of eight others, including aides of Tharoor and journalist Nalini Singh, who was the last person to talk to Pushkar.

Nalini had said her friend was depressed.

Tharoor discovered his wife's body when he returned to their suite after a Congress party meeting last Friday.

A few days earlier, Pushkar, who married Tharoor in 2010, gave a public statement saying she wanted to expose a "rip-roaring affair" between her husband, 57, and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, 45.

Doctors who conducted an autopsy said last Saturday that the death was "sudden and unnatural". They also noted "certain injury marks" on her.

"It was an unnatural death, which can be anything from heavy drug overdose to assault," said the AIIMS spokesman, Dr Amit Gupta, on Monday.

The police will register a case and launch a full-fledged investigation if the report from the magistrate looking into Pushkar's death warrants it.

"We are waiting for the magistrate's report... So far, we have been taking steps so evidence doesn't get destroyed," said Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

Under Indian law, an investigation undertaken by a magistrate is the first step if a woman who has committed suicide has been married for less than seven years.

Pushkar and Tharoor had been married for more than three years following a high-profile courtship. It was the third marriage for both.

The two were often spotted together at parties and social events.

But rumours of a marital rift started making the rounds last year, and were seemingly confirmed when Pushkar took to Twitter last week accusing Tarar of stalking her husband.

She also accused her husband of adultery, but backtracked soon after in a joint statement with her husband that said they were happily married.

The couple were at the centre of a controversy in 2010 when Tharoor was forced to resign as external affairs minister following revelations that Pushkar, who was his girlfriend at the time, had got a free stake in a new cricket team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket franchise.

He stepped down on the back of allegations that it was a kickback for helping put the new team together.

Pushkar referred to the scandal in an interview a few days before she died.

"I took upon myself the crimes of this man during IPL. I will not allow this to be done to me. I just can't tolerate this," she told India's The Economic Times.


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