Special team to probe murder of Indian MP's wife

Special team to probe murder of Indian MP's wife
Former junior minister for external affairs and Congress Party's Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor (R) and his wife Sunanda Pushkar

Under fire for taking a year to establish that the death of former diplomat Shashi Tharoor's estranged wife was murder, Delhi police have formed a special team of investigators to handle the case.

Ms Sunanda Pushkar, 52, was found dead in a five-star hotel on Jan 17 last year by Mr Tharoor, a former minister in the previous Congress government.

She had accused him of having an affair with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar at the time.

The police now believe that Ms Pushkar ingested or was injected with poison but have yet to name a suspect.

Though medical examiners ruled earlier that her death was "sudden and unnatural", it was only on Tuesday that a case of murder was registered. The police said they needed time to get clarifications on medical and forensic reports, the last of which they received only last month.

Delhi police chief B.S. Bassi yesterday said investigators would collect "fresh evidence" to solve the case, even though they have made little headway until now.

"We have formed a special investigation team. We have an action plan and we will collect evidence accordingly. Everyone linked to the case will be questioned," he told reporters.

Still, the criticism has been cutting.

The Times of India, in a report headlined "Muddled and delayed, case damaged", said the police needed "to explain the year-long delay in lodging the case". It quoted sources who said the delay "weakened the case" and chances of a breakthrough were "bleak".

The case has attracted national attention because Mr Tharoor is a high-flying politician and an MP. He won his parliamentary seat in Kerala state.

But he has been dogged by controversy.

He was forced to resign as minister of state for external affairs in 2009 after revelations that Ms Pushkar, his girlfriend at the time, had obtained a free stake in a new cricket team in the Indian Premier League cricket franchise, and that it was a kickback for helping to put the new team together.

Recently, he was removed from his role as a spokesman for Congress after he praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Tharoor has stayed out of public view but said in a statement on Tuesday he was stunned by the new development.

The Indian media yesterday focused on a letter Mr Tharoor had written to the Delhi police chief on Nov 12, in which he said police officials were trying to implicate him and his domestic helper in his wife's death. He also said the helper was picked up and pressured to give a statement implicating Mr Tharoor in the murder.

The case also took on political overtones with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the leftist parties in Kerala demanding that he resign as MP.

"Now, with a murder case registered, Tharoor should resign and make himself available for the probe," the leader of the The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in a statement.


This article was first published on January 8, 2015.
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