Police in Delhi have recommended criminal charges against one of India’s most prominent opposition politicians, opening what could be the final chapter in a high-profile case that has transfixed the country for the past four years.
Shashi Tharoor, a former top UN diplomat and best-selling author turned MP for India’s main opposition Congress Party, has been accused of abetting what the police say was his wife Sunanda Puskhar’s suicide in 2014.
“We have done our investigation and submitted our results to the court,” Deependra Pathak, official spokesperson for the Delhi police, told CNN. “The court will take cognizance, mull it over and frame the charges,” he added. A local court is due to consider the case on May 24.
Pushkar, 51, was found dead in her room in a luxury Delhi hotel in 2014, triggering frenzied media coverage and speculation about the cause of her death, initially labeled “unnatural” and “sudden” by doctors.
Now, after investigating the case for four years, police authorities in Delhi have filed a charge sheet with a local court, saying her death was a suicide — and recommending charges against Tharoor covering the abetment of a suicide that carries a possible prison term of up to 10 years, according to deputy police commissioner Romil Baniya.
Pushkar, a businesswoman from Dubai married Tharoor in 2010, and the couple led a glitzy life in the social sphere of the Delhi elite.
Her death was reported on widely in Indian media, and the police investigation has taken numerous turns since, including, at one point, classing her death as a possible case of murder.
Tharoor has repeatedly denied allegations that he was involved in his wife’s death in any way.
Responding to the police charge sheet filed Monday, he labeled the allegations “preposterous,” saying on Twitter that he intended to “contest it vigorously.”
A few days before Puskhar’s death, reports emerged alleging that Tharoor had had an affair with a journalist from Pakistan. Indian media reported that Pushkar had hacked into her husband’s Twitter account and tweeted about the alleged affair.
The journalist in question dismissed the allegations. Tharoor and Sunanda also released a joint statement, saying that they were “happily married.”
On Monday, the Congress party staunchly backed Tharoor and denounced what it labeled as a “politically motivated charge sheet against him.”
Slamming the police for supporting a political agenda and for becoming a party to a political conspiracy, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala added that Tharoor has been hounded and persecuted over the past few years.
“We completely reject the charge against Shashi Tharoor. They have hounded him, they have persecuted him, they have maligned him. They have carried on a media trial against him,” said Surjewala.
Tharoor filed a defamation lawsuit against a prominent Indian media house that has openly accused him of involvement in his wife’s death. The case is currently ongoing in a Delhi court.
Tharoor has previously served as a cabinet minister in India and before that, as a senior diplomat for United Nations around the world. He was married to Pushkar for nearly four years and it was a third marriage for both of them.