Overdose likely killed Indian minister's wife: autopsy

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 21, 2014 10:46 AM

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An overdose of anti-depressant drugs likely killed the wife of a high-profile Indian federal minister, according to an autopsy released days after she accused him of having an extramarital affair.

Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Junior Human Resource Development Minister and former top U.N. diplomat Shashi Tharoor, was found dead in a New Delhi hotel room after she sent out tweets suggesting he was involved with a Pakistan-based journalist.

Pushkar, 52, probably died of drug poisoning, two officials said on Tuesday, citing the post mortem report submitted to a magistrate leading an inquest into the death on Friday.

There was no suggestion as to whether the overdose was deliberate or not, and no suggestion of foul play.

"The conclusion of the post mortem report was death likely due to drug poisoning," said an official at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where the autopsy was conducted.

Television channels reported that magistrate Alok Sharma had ordered the police to conduct further investigations into the case following the autopsy report.

Sharma could not be contacted immediately but Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said it had received the post mortem report and was examining it.

The report also said there were 15 injuries on Pushkar's upper body, but these were described as small and ruled out as a cause of her death.


The couple were married in late 2010, the third marriage for both of them. Part of Delhi's social set, they were open and unconventional by the standards of Indian politicians.

Under Indian law, a magisterial inquiry is automatic if a woman dies within seven years of marriage.

Police found used strips of anti-depressant drug alprazolam, commonly known as Alprax, from the Leela Palace hotel room where Pushkar was found dead in her bed. The medicine, used by people suffering from anxiety, sleep disorder and depression, is available over the counter in India.

"Very broadly, any medicine can be fatal if taken in large quantities," Dr Adarsh Kumar, who was part of the team that carried out the autopsy, told Reuters.

"It depends on the quantity, the route through which it has been administered, the physical and even the mental condition of the person."

Tharoor has called for a swift inquiry into his wife's death, saying he was horrified to read speculative reports about their personal lives.

Pushkar said last week she had gone into his Twitter account and posted what she said were intimate messages from Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar to expose a rip-roaring affair.

Tarar hit back saying she would sue Pushkar for calling her a Pakistani spy and denied having an affair with Tharoor. She said she was friends with Tharoor on Twitter and exchanged comments about articles she had written, but that was all.

Tharoor, a prolific author, testified before the magistrate in a closed-door session on Sunday.

(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty; Editing by Tom Heneghan)