Doctors who conducted the hour-long postmortem on Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor at AIIMS on Saturday afternoon said it appeared to be a case of “sudden, unnatural death”, and that she had “certain injuries on the body”.
Pushkar’s viscera and tissue samples have been sent to laboratories for toxicological and histopathological examination, which is likely to be completed by Monday, based on which the final medical opinion on the cause of her death will be given by AIIMS.
Dr Sudhir Gupta, HoD, Forensic Medicine Department, AIIMS, and chairperson of the three-member board constituted for the autopsy, confirmed that there were injuries on Pushkar’s body but added that he could not say if these were the cause of death.
“Since the investigating agency is now working on the case, certain issues related with the injuries cannot be revealed now,” he said, speaking to mediapersons outside the AIIMS mortuary.
Asked about the number of injuries, Dr Gupta added, “In medico-legal cases, the number of injuries does not matter. Whether these injuries are related with the fatality or not, that matters. Before giving any opinion, I have to see laboratory reports of toxicology and histopathology.”
Sources told The Sunday Express that the injuries were present in the “upper extremity” of Pushkar’s body, a forensic term for upper part of the body. According to sources, these included “minor injuries, bruises” on one hand, face, chin and parts of the neck.
Sources also confirmed that the “physical appearance of the body” indicated that Pushkar died “15-20 hours” before the autopsy.
The autopsy was started at around 12.30 pm on Saturday. A source at AIIMS said that police had not found any apparent substance indicating a drug overdose, or alcohol, in the room where she was found dead.
The autopsy board included two other doctors, additional professor of forensic medicine Dr Adarsh Kumar and a senior resident in the department, Dr Shashank Puniya. In case of inquiries by a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), where inquest proceedings are on, postmortem has to be conducted by a group of doctors.
Dr Gupta added, “The postmortem examination is focusing on investigation from a medical angle as a case of sudden, unnatural death… I assure everyone that our report will (follow) a completely transparent procedure.”
AIIMS doctors have also asked the SDM for pictures of the scene of the crime for details like the position of the body. “A natural cause of death is one where the heart stops due to a natural reason, of disease or old age… So far the only thing that has been ascertained is that it is not a natural death. So we need to conduct toxicology tests on the viscera to analyse what caused the death,” the AIIMS source said.
Sources confirmed that the viscera samples preserved were those of Pushkar’s lung, intestine, stomach and heart valves, that have been divided equally for toxicology analysis at the AIIMS laboratory and at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Rohini.
While the toxicological analysis will test for toxins, histopathological analysis will comprise scientific examination of tissues “to identify possible causes of bodily injuries”.
Pushkar’s body was brought to AIIMS at around 3 am on Saturday. Barely 15 minutes later Tharoor came to the CN Tower emergency with his aide, complaining of “general discomfort and palpitations”. “He is at a risk for heart disease since he was recently diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension. Seeing the nature of his complaints, Dr Balram Bhargav, professor of cardiology, and his team first examined him and then admitted him in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) for two-three hours, where he was observed.
Repeated ECGs and Trop-T tests were conducted. When they were all negative for heart disease, he was shifted to a private ward, and discharged on Saturday at around 1 pm,” a source from AIIMS said.
At around 1.30 pm, Tharoor reached the AIIMS mortuary in an ambulance, along with Pushkar’s son Shiv Menon and brother, to receive her body. Tharoor was seen pulling Shiv towards him and hugging him, as the body was lifted into the ambulance.
Sources confirmed that Pushkar’s son and brother gave the necessary permission for AIIMS to conduct the autopsy, while Tharoor’s discharge formalities from the Cardio Neuro Centre were still being processed.
“Sunanda’s son and brother met doctors and requested that postmortem proceedings be conducted at the earliest. When they were told family members’ signatures were needed for inquest proceedings and that Tharoor’s was awaited, they completed the formalities themselves in the morning. They were keen to have the autopsy done as soon as possible,” a source said.