Updated: August 20, 2021 8:35:49 am
In its Wednesday order discharging Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in the death of his late wife Sunanda Pushkar, a Delhi court said that “in the absence of specific allegations and sufficient material”, the accused “cannot be compelled to face the rigmaroles of a criminal trial”.
“No doubt a precious life was lost. But in the absence of specific allegations and sufficient material to make out the ingredients of the various offences and on the basis of which the court could, at this stage, presume that the accused had committed the offence, the accused cannot be compelled to face the rigmaroles of a criminal trial,” Special Judge Geetanjali Goel said in the order that was uploaded on Thursday.
Pushkar was found dead in the suite of a luxury hotel in Delhi on January 17, 2014. The Delhi Police initially registered an FIR against unknown persons on charges of murder on January 1, 2015. Tharoor was later booked under IPC Sections 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment to suicide).
Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Kumar Shrivastava had in hearings stretching over two years made the case that Tharoor had subjected Pushkar to mental and physical cruelty and that he had abetted her suicide.
To constitute an offence under Section 306 (abetment to suicide), the prosecution has to prove that the deceased died by suicide and the accused abetted the commission of suicide.
Tharoor’s lawyer, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, had argued that it has been held in a cantena of judgments that where the cause of death was not definite, it would not attract Section 306.
This was a point that went in Tharoor’s favour, as the court noted that “none of the (medical) reports on record confirm that the death in the present case was suicidal”.
In its first report, the Psychological Autopsy Board — a Board of independent doctors set up by the Ministry of Health on the request of the investigating agency — had stated that the death was not homicide or suicide while in its second report, it stated that the deceased had “suicidal ideations but did not state that it was a suicide nor there is any other material to confirm the same”. The court said that as such, “none of the Boards had confirmed that the death was a suicide”.
The court noted that the “prosecution itself has taken the stance at one point that it was a homicidal death and at another that the death was a suicide”.
It said that “even if it is presumed that the deceased had suicidal ideations and she had committed suicide or caused grave injury or danger to life, limb or health as per the case of the prosecution”, there is nothing, even prima facie, to suggest that there was any “willful conduct on the part of the accused of such a nature as was likely to drive the deceased to commit suicide…”
The prosecution had largely relied on the fact that Pushkar suspected her husband was involved in an extra-marital affair, however, the court held that “it cannot be said that the same would amount to mental cruelty”.
The prosecutor had mentioned various instances where Tharoor allegedly treated Pushkar cruelly, however, the court held that the “prosecution has not brought anything on record to show that the accused had provoked, incited or induced the deceased to commit suicide”.
The court had perused the statements made by Pushkar’s son and her two brothers and stated that they did not “state about any physical cruelty nor did any of the other witnesses”.
The court perused a statement by Pushkar’s close friend who stated that the deceased showed her some bruises on her body and alleged that Tharoor had hit her. The court observed that even this witness “did not believe her”.
The court also observed that there was “nothing whatsoever to even prima facie” show that an offence under the section of murder is attached in the case.
While the police had first registered a case of murder only to drop it in the chargesheet, two years into the argument on point of charge, the state prosecutor, arguing on point of framing of charges, had asked the court to prosecute Tharoor for abetment to suicide or “alternatively” frame murder charges against him.
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