NEW DELHI: The controversy surrounding the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, was again revived Wednesday after the chief of the AIIMS forensic department reportedly said he was pressurised to show her death as "natural". Even as union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought a report from AIIMS, the institute denied the allegation made by its senior doctor.
Tharoor also requested the authorities to conduct a "thorough investigation" to conclude the inquiry "rapidly and transparently".
Top officials of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), India's premier health and research institution, categorically denied the allegations made by forensic department chief Sudhir Gupta.
"The AIIMS administration categorically denies any such allegations. There was no attempt to change the post mortem report," Neerja Bhatla of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology told reporters.
Media reports said Gupta alleged that he was pressurised by top officials to show Pushkar's death as "natural" and that as he did not bow to pressure and gave a report stating that the former union minister's wife died due to drug poisoning that could be both suicidal or homicidal he feared he would be removed.
Gupta in an affidavit before the Central Administrative Tribunal, which settles disputes regarding recruitment and conditions of service of people appointed to public services, two months ago alleged that a decision was taken by AIIMS to promote his junior as the head of department and to remove him.
Gupta feared he was being removed as he gave the "right post-mortem report", sources told IANS.
As the controversy was raked again, Tharoor in a statement from Thiruvananthapuram, which he represents in the Lok Sabha, said: "Upon the tragic loss of my wife Sunanda and from the very beginning, I have requested for a thorough investigation by the authorities to be conducted and concluded rapidly and transparently."
The Pushkar family also took the same view, saying "we have all fully cooperated with the authorities".
"I reiterate my request to bring this protracted inquiry to a clear and definitive conclusion at the earliest, so as to put all speculation to rest," Tharoor, the former human resource development minister, said in the statement issued in both English and Malayalam.
Tharoor's statement came after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought a report from the AIIMS director on the issue.
"In context of his promotion, Sudhir Gupta had written a letter to the health ministry. It was only after media reports emerged of Sudhir Gupta imposing specific allegations, I have sought a detailed report on it from the AIIMS director," Harsh Vardhan told the media.
Sunanda Pushkar, 52, was found dead in her room at a five-star hotel in Delhi January 17.
Speaking on the controversy, Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi said Gupta will be examined if necessary and his affidavit brought on record.
"If it is necessary to examine Sudhir Gupta, he will be examined and if it is necessary his affidavit which apparently has been filed by him before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) will also be brought on record," Bassi told the media.
"Whatever is relevant, we will be conducting inquiries keeping in view the legal position of the relevance of the evidence," he added.
Delhi Police had set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) a few days after the mysterious death to probe the case as Pushkar's death occurred a little over three years of the marriage.
According to Indian laws, a death is probed by either the magistrate or the police if it has occurred within seven years. Tharoor and Pushkar got married in August 2010.
The Congress too rebutted the allegations made by Gupta.
"Trigger happy reactions in the midst of sensationalism can do a lot of injustice," party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted.
"AIIMS has said that there are no facts on this allegation," he said in another tweet.