An Indian MP and former United Nations diplomat has been charged in connection with his wife’s death, which occurred just days after she accused a female journalist of attempting to seduce her husband.
Delhi Police have charged 62-year-old Shashi Tharoor, of India’s opposition Congress party, with cruelty to a spouse and abetment of suicide following the death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar.
Pushkar, 52, was found dead in a luxury hotel room in January of 2014. Police declared the death at the time to be “sudden and unnatural,” but it was not ruled a suicide until Monday, when the charges against her husband were announced.
Abetment of suicide carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while cruelty to a spouse is punishable by up to three years in prison. Abetment of suicide involves directly helping or encouraging someone to kill him or herself under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.
Tharoor responded to the charges on Twitter Monday, calling them “preposterous” and “unbelievable.”
“No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment on my part,” Tharoor tweeted.
He added that he intends to contest the charges “vigorously,” and questioned the police force’s motivations in laying the charges.
The couple became embroiled in a lewd public scandal shortly before Pushkar’s death, when dozens of messages sent from Pushkar’s Twitter account accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of attempting to seduce Tharoor. Tharoor’s account also sent out tweets in the spat, although they have since been deleted. Several news outlets made screen-captures of the tweets at the time.
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Tharoor and Pushkar later claimed in a joint statement that the tweets from their accounts were unauthorized.
“We wish to stress that we are happily married and intend to remain that way,” they said in the statement, which was tweeted from Pushkar’s account on Jan. 16, 2014.
Tweets from Tharoor and the journalist involved in the scandal have since been deleted, but Pushkar’s remain visible on her Twitter account.
The couple also said in the statement that Pushkar “has been ill and hospitalized this week.”
Her body was found the next morning, touching off a lengthy police investigation that plagued Tharoor throughout India’s 2014 general election.
Tharoor and Pushkar were married in 2010, in what was the third marriage for each of them.
Tharoor entered Indian politics after an unsuccessful bid to become secretary general of the UN, where he served for over two decades. Ban Ki-Moon ultimately won the position over Tharoor, who was an under-secretary general at the time.
Tharoor’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 24.