Vigilance points to serious lapses in Sunanda probe

| | New Delhi
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Vigilance points to serious lapses in Sunanda probe

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 | Kanika Mehta | New Delhi

Four years after Sunanda Pushkar was found dead under mysterious circumstances in room no 345 at the leela Palace Hotel, The Pioneer accessed the detailed report of the Vigilance Enquiry, which was ordered by the Delhi Police Commissioner in 2016. As per the detailed report, the Investigating Officer (IO) lifted the bedsheet, bed covers and some eatables from Pushkar’s room ten months after the incident.

Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Shashi Tharoor, was found dead on January 17, 2014. However, as per the vigilance enquiry, which is part of the ongoing investigation, clearly mentions that the mobile phones and laptop of Sunanda were taken to Dubai by her son, Shiv Menon after her last rites. The Delhi Police seized her laptop on January 25 and her three blackberry phones on January 30. These were handed over to the Delhi Police by Shiv Kumar Prasad, Shashi Tharoor’s consultant. Highly placed sources said the vigilance report mentions that it is one of the five shortcomings as some of the data was found to be deleted from Sunanda’s phone.

One of the key shortcomings mentioned in the Vigilance Report is that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is yet to establish the source of the Alprax tablets. The probe team is yet to match the alprax tablets with the batch numbers of the recovered alprax tablets seized from the crime spot.

Among the other shortcomings, sources said that the report submitted to the then Police Commissioner, Alok Kumar Verma, stated that Sunanda was found dead on January 17. However, the crime team seized her Apple laptop only on January 25. This indicates that the laptop was seized eight days after the crime was reported to the Delhi Police.

On the other the three Blackberry phones, each having a Delhi number, a Kerala number and a Dubai number were recovered by the Delhi Police after 13 days.

This, the sources told The Pioneer, hints that the Delhi Police SIT, which was initially handling the case, was lax in collecting the evidence.

The sources said one of the glaring shortcomings is that the crime team, headed by SHO Sarojini Nagar police station did not seize the medicine from the crime scene on January 18, 2014, a day after Sunanda’s death. It was only 48 hours later that the police team took the medicines from the hotel room 345 on January 19.

Sources said these shortcomings were noticed when the Delhi Police registered a case of murder on January 1, 2015, a year after the woman was found dead.

The other shortcoming was that the complete CCTV footage was not taken from the leela Palace Hotel. Sources told The Pioneer, “Grabs of CCTV footage were taken by the Delhi Police team. These too were taken in different hard discs.” CCTV footage of the main porch of the leela Palace Hotel for January 15 is available till 5:44 pm and then of January 21 from 12:12 to 12:18pm.

The first Delhi Police team did not take hold of the CCTV footage of the main porch of the date, January 16, a day before the death.

Moreover, the sources said that even on the day of Sunanda’s death, CCTV footage of the corridor is available till 11.57pm and later the footage seized by the Delhi Police is available for January 19.

In the light of the in-depth report detailing the shortcomings of the local police in handling the case, the Delhi Police Vigilance Enquiry report had asked from the Police Commissioner to conduct a meeting with a newly constituted medical board and experts from the Forensic Science laboratory (FSl). The meeting must be conducted to establish the exact cause of death. The report also described how the visceral remnants which were sent to the US on September 16 in 2016 must be again discussed with the US courts.

Meanwhile, the trial court reserved hearing on June 5 for taking cognizance on Delhi Police chargesheet, accusing husband Shashi Tharoor. Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava said the cause of death was “poisoning” and it was confirmed by AIIMS and FBI. He was responding to the question asked by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal. Adding further, the Prosecutor also said there were 12 injuries on Sunanda’s body and further investigation on this aspect was going on.

The Delhi Police produced two emails of Sunanda showing her tendency to commit suicide. “I have no desire to live...All I pray for is death,” Sunanda Pushkar wrote in an e-mail to her husband Shashi Tharoor nine days before she was found dead in Hotel leela here, police told the court. Police team headed by senior officers Manishi Chandra and VKPS Yadav was present in court.

Arguing for taking cognizance and summoning of Tharoor, police told the court that Sunanda’s death was due to poisoning and 27 tablets of Alprax were found in her room but it was not clear how many pills she had consumed.

Sunanda’s mail and messages on social media have been taken as a “dying declaration”, said Police, adding that the reason for death was poison and need of further probe on the injury marks on the body.

The Congress leader has been charged under sections 498 A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code. Under section 498A, the maximum punishment is up to three years of imprisonment, while jail term up to 10 years is prescribed under section 306.

According to prosecution sources, the chargesheet has mentioned that Pushkar was allegedly subjected to mental as well as physical cruelty. Tharoor has not been arrested in the case yet.

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