#SunandaPushkar Autopsy Row: 10 Things You Must Know

While the office politics in AIIMS may not be of any concern to others, the bigger picture has been drawn vividly. Till now Dr Gupta has managed to draw evidences to back his claims regarding Sunanda Pushkar’s death.

The mystery over the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former union minister and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, is deepening by the day. There are so many twists and turns in the case that it has become a complicated mess.

The claims that have been made by head of AIIMS forensic medicine department Dr Sudhir Gupta on Sunanda’s death have an impeccable yet questionable timing. He is fighting the promotion of a colleague over him which concerns the AIIMS director Dr MC Mishra and former health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. It may be called the acme of the internal fight in the hospital administration which has been ongoing for a long time.

In light of it, here are 10 facts about the case, as it unfolds, that you must know:

1. For the last 20 years, Dr Gupta had an illustrious career at AIIMS. In 2012, he was promoted as HoD as he was found to be quite bright by the full panel of interviewers which was headed by Azad. His opinion has been appreciated by courts while handling many of India’s infamous cases. Suddenly in April 2014, another person superseded Dr Gupta as the HoD. Dr Gupta contested the matter and the appointment was stayed by a court.

2. In his first affidavit to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on May 13, Dr Gupta only contested the promotion of his colleague Dr OP Murthy. In his representation to the then health minister Azad on May 6 and to Dr Misra on May 12 also, he only gave his views on why his colleague was not eligible for promotion.

3. It was only in his second submission, a letter to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on May 27, a day after prime minister Narendra Modi was sworn in, that Dr Gupta alleged an “illegal, politically motivated agenda to oust me from the post of HoD since I have taken an honest and ethical stand in the post-mortem in the Sunanda Pushkar and Nido Tania cases.” In his letter sent to new health minister and AIIMS president Dr Harsh Vardhan also, Gupta mentioned the two cases.

4. In his post-mortem report in the Pushkar case, Gupta had said, “To the best of my knowledge and belief, the cause of death in this case is from poisoning… and the circumstantial evidence is suggestive of alprazolam poisoning”. He said the 15 injuries, including bruises and abrasions “are caused by blunt force, simple in nature and not contributing to death.”

5. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) had given a report on the collected viscera of Sunanda’s body and had reached a conclusion that Pushkar’s death is not a sudden one due to poisoning as mentioned in the AIIMS autopsy report. The allegation is that Azad wanted Dr Gupta to change his version in light of the CFSL observation.

6. Dr Gupta wanted to know on what basis did CFSL reach that conclusion but he has not been informed about it so far. Dr Gupta is willing to change his opinion if CFSL convinces him on the report.

7. Dr Gupta has attached many evidences to back his claims. He has attached a copy of an e-mail reply to an independent doctor where he has mentioned “Dr Mishra” who, according to Dr Gupta, is a reference to AIIMS director. Dr Gupta has said that the e-mail dated January 26 shows that Tharoor has “admitted influencing Director, AIIMS, for a tailor made autopsy report”. In the email, Tharoor purportedly states, “I’m drawing this to the attention of Dr Mishra of AIIMS through our mutual friend… I recall your fear that without regular hydration and salt intake, she could suffer from recurring episodes of dangerously low blood pressure. Clearly, this must have occurred since she was not eating or drinking properly for two or three days.”

8. Among the various enclosures, Dr Gupta has attached a letter from a specialist in Dubai who has wished to document the facts privy to him about Sunanda’s condition as it might help ascertain the cause of death. In the email, the specialist mentions that Pushkar told him she had an auto-immune disorder called Lupus, and had “repeated episodes” of “plummeting blood pressure in Dubai”. He says “she used to bruise easily and we have discussed this several times in passing. A mere injection for blood test or bumping into a piece of furniture could result in visible bruising. I am concerned as bruising on her body is being discussed as inflicted in the media”.

9. Although the doctors were tight-lipped about the case, few pictures of Sunanda’s body found a way into the media where bruises on the body were quite evident. On June 14, Dr Gupta received a showcause notice on a complaint dated March 1 of “unethical and unlawful media leakages of medico legal post-mortem” and “holding press conferences immediately after conducting post-mortem”. In his reply on June 18, Gupta said he only conducted one press conference (in the Pushkar case), in the presence of AIIMS spokespersons.

10. The timing of the revelation has been explained by Dr Gupta by saying that he “could not muster the courage of openly placing the facts in black and white as the former president of AIIMS Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad was an immensely powerful politician and then the Health Minister and the husband of late Sunanda Pushkar was also a minister and a powerful politician.”

While the office politics in AIIMS may not be of any concern to others, the bigger picture has been drawn vividly. Till now Dr Gupta has managed to draw evidences to back his claims regarding Sunanda Pushkar’s death. And the timing or revelation follows logically as there is a change in the government.

Now it is upto Dr Harsh Vardhan, who has asked for a detailed report in the case, and the investigative agencies involved to make it clear for once and all.

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