NEW DELHI – An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted an influential politician of all charges related to his wife’s death in a case long criticized as politically motivated by the country’s largest opposition party.
Shashi Tharoor, a member of parliament for India’s opposition National Congress, was charged with cruelty and assisted suicide in 2018, four years after his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was found dead under mysterious circumstances.
The charges were dismissed by a Delhi court, effectively releasing Mr Tharoor in a case that preoccupied India’s political and media circles for years and which highlighted the details of his personal life.
A lawyer for Mr Tharoor argued that the cause of Ms. Pushkar’s death was still not clearly established, undermining the incitement to suicide.
In a statement on Twitter, Mr. Tharoor thanked the court and called the charges against him “absurd”.
“This brings a meaningful conclusion to the long nightmare that enveloped me after the tragic death of my late wife, Sunanda,” he said.
Mr. Tharoor, 65, a former diplomat and cabinet minister who represents a parliamentary constituency in the southern state of Kerala, married Ms. Pushkar in 2010, the third marriage for each of them. The couple, who often posed for photos and shared them online, were regulars in India’s party circles, and none of them shied away from sharing their thoughts on Twitter.
In early 2014, Ms. Pushkar shocked her social media followers by accusing her husband of having a “maddening affair” with a Pakistani journalist, which both Mr. Tharoor and the journalist denied. The public argument with his wife became an embarrassment for Mr. Tharoor, who had served at a high level with the United Nations in New York, as discussion about her personal life intensified on social media platforms and in the news media.
Credit…Manoj Verma / Hindustan Times, via Getty Images
When tweets were posted from his account, apparently aimed at the Pakistani journalist, Mr Tharoor said his Twitter account had been hacked. Ms. Pushkar, in turn, told reporters that she was planning to get a divorce.
But within a day, the couple made a statement on Facebook stating that they were “happily married.”
A day later, on January 17th, Mr. Tharoor said he found Ms. Pushkar dead in the deluxe hotel in Delhi where they were staying. She was 52.
Mr Tharoor was faced with a barrage of allegations, rumors and suspicions. In 2015, New Delhi police announced they had filed a preliminary murder case without naming a suspect. Three years later, they said they had “medico-legal and forensic evidence” linking Mr. Tharoor to his wife’s death.
Among those who pressured the police to bring charges against Mr. Tharoor was Subramanian Swamy, a member of parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who insisted that Ms. Pushkar had been poisoned. Mr. Swamy has also tried to take legal action against other members of the Congress Party.
Supporters of Mr Tharoor, widely viewed as material for the prime minister, said he threatened the BJP and was trying to ruin his reputation.
In 2018, Mr. Swamy offered to assist the court in indicting Mr. Tharoor. His application was rejected.
Mr Swamy expressed his dissatisfaction with the court ruling on Wednesday and said in an interview that he would offer his help again if appealed.
“It’s all there and I don’t know how the Delhi police argued the matter,” he said.
Mr Tharoor said the court ruling would allow his family to finally mourn Ms. Pushkar in peace.
“I have patiently endured dozens of unsubstantiated allegations and defamations in the media, borne by my belief in Indian justice, which is confirmed today,” he said. “In our judiciary, the process is all too often a punishment.”
If you have thoughts of suicide, call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). In India, contact 91-9820466726 or visit the Aasra.info website for more resources.