Man dies; wife, baby spend 25 days in Saudi prison

Indian doctor suspected to be involved in killing her husband

Saudi Arabian police suspect that Dr Shalini Chawla was involved in the killing of her husband Dr Ashis Chawla, although the death certificate issued by a local hospital cited heart attack as the cause of the sudden demise of the 36-year old man, who was also a medic.

Though pleas by her in-laws and interventions by Indian Consulate in Jeddah resulted in the release of Shalini on bail last Saturday; the local authorities barred her from leaving Saudi Arabia till the investigation is complete.

The Chawlas have also been denied permission to bring Ashis’s body—now in the custody of local authorities in Najran—to the family’s home in Delhi.

“We went to Najran to meet Dr Chawla after she was released on bail. She and her baby are in good health. But she cannot leave Saudi Arabia as the investigation is still on,” K K Vijayan, consul (community affairs), in the Consulate General of India in Jeddah told Deccan Herald over the phone. Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor had earlier instructed the officials of Indian Consulate General in Jeddah to provide all necessary help to Shalini and rest of the bereaved family. 

Ashis worked in the King Khalid Hospital in Najran. Shalini, too, had worked in the same hospital, but quit the job to look after the couple’s daughter—now two years old.
The couple was expecting their second child when Ashis suddenly died on January 31 and the local hospital certified that myocardial infarction (heart attack) was the cause of death.

Medico-legal test
This was also corroborated by a medico-legal test carried out by a doctor deputed by the local police. Ashis’s brother Anuj flew to Saudi Arabia and started the process for bringing the  medic’s body to Delhi. Shalini gave birth to a baby boy on February 10.
According to Anuj; Shalini was suddenly summoned to the local police station on March 1 and was told that fresh evidences had revealed that Ashis had converted to Islam and his body could not be taken out of Saudi Arabia. Police later detained Shalini for interrogation on March 16, last. The authorities allowed her to keep the newborn with her, but not her daughter.

The Chawlas made it clear that they did not suspect any foul play in the death of Ashis. Anuj in fact petitioned to the Saudi Arabian authorities seeking release of Shalini and permission to bring his brother’s body back home for cremation. He claimed that Ashis had never shared with Shalini or the rest of the family his desire to convert to Islam or that he had already changed religion. His religion remained unchanged in the records of his employer and passport.

He sought quashing of all proceedings against Shalini so that she—along with her children and her husband’s body—could return to India.

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