Mystery Unsolved: Sunanda Pushkar’s death case stirs fresh controversy


By NewsGram Staff Writer

Sunanda Pushkar’s death stirred another controversy on Tuesday, as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) sought permission from Delhi High Court to replace its forensic department head Dr. Sudhir Kumar Gupta. The doctor had alleged that he was pressurized to give a false report on the death of Sunanda Pushkar as directed by Dr M C Misra, director of AIIMS.

On May 28, 2015, Gupta had written a letter to Union Health Minister, J P Nadda, alleging that the forensic team was asked to declare the death of Sunanda Pushkar as natural, adding that the team had taken principled and professional stand in the autopsy and not succumbing to pressure.

“I was asked by Dr. Misra to give a postmortem report of late Sunanda Pushkar as natural death, which was contrary to the findings,” he said in the letter, as reported by Times of India.

He also alleged a “tacit understanding” between AIIMS director Dr Misra and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor to fabricate a “tailor-made” postmortem report.

The newspaper reported that Dr Adarsh Kumar, a member of the board of doctors which conducted the postmortem (of Sunanda Pushkar), has also written to the health minister supporting Dr. Gupta. He reportedly claimed that the board was asked to state the manner of death as “natural.”

However, AIIMS has rejected the allegations stating, “The institute would like to categorically state that there was no extraneous pressure ever on Dr. Gupta with regard to his medical opinion for any case. Allegations being leveled against the institute in the media by Prof. Gupta in this regard are baseless and denied.”

On Tuesday, the AIIMS administration sought the permission of the High Court to appoint Dr. D N Bhardwaj as the new head of its Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department, replacing Dr. Sudhir Gupta.

The High Court on March 25 had issued an order directing AIIMS to take its permission before replacing Gupta.

As per the newspaper’s report, the decision was taken, considering Gupta’s plea challenging a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order rejecting his charge that Dr. O P Murty was promoted after purging his seniority with the purpose of obtaining a “tailor-made report” in the Sunanda Pushkar case.

CAT rubbished Gupta’s claim and rejected the allegation of interference made against Tharoor. It said the “email sent by Shashi Tharoor, then Union Minister, to Dr. Rajiv Bhasin, on January 26, 2014, and the notice dated June 2, 2014 issued by Dr. Adarsh Kumar, member secretary, Medical Board, AIIMS, do not reveal anything to show that any pressure was put on the applicant to submit a tailor-made autopsy report in Sunanda Pushkar’s case.”

Here is the timeline of the events that unfolded since Pushkar’s death:

January 17, 2014: Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Hotel Leela Palace in New Delhi.

January 19: The doctors who conducted postmortem at AIIMS stated that it appeared to be a case of “sudden, unnatural death”, and that she had “certain injuries on the body.” The autopsy board included Dr. Adarsh Kumar and a senior resident in the department, Dr. Shashank Puniya.

January 21: The Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM) Alok Sharma who was heading the enquiry, had said in his report that Pushkar died of poisoning and had asked police to probe into the cause of poisoning.

January 23: Investigators were believed to have found that she died of “hidden poisoning” as traces of two medicines, Alprazolam and Excedrin, were found in her body.

July 01: Dr. Sudhir Kumar Gupta, who headed the panel that conducted the postmortem filed an affidavit before Central Administrative Tribunal, challenging an order to remove him from the post of head of forensic medicine. He alleged bias against him for succumbing to pressure from “top officials of the institute and then senior Congress ministers” to fabricate Pushkar’s post mortem report.

July 2: The then Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought a detailed report on the specific allegations leveled by the doctor.

October 10: The latest post mortem report submitted to AIIMS was leaked that stated the cause of death as “poisoning.” Delhi police was asked to ‘re-examine’ the case, following the revelation.

January 6, 2015: A year after Sunanda Pushkar’s death, Delhi Police confirmed that she was murdered, with the medical board calling her death ‘unnatural.’