Apollo Hospitals Enterprises on Monday argued before the Madras High Court that the State government would have appointed a multi-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) comprising medical experts, and not a single member commission led by former High Court judge A. Arumughaswamy, if its intention was to order an inquiry into the adequacy, appropriateness or efficacy of medical treatment provided to former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
Arguing for an entire day before a Division Bench of Justices R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy, senior counsel C. Ariyama Sundaram said the commission exceeded its scope of reference by inquiring into the correctness of the medical treatment provided to Jayalalithaa before her death on December 5, 2016, though the prime intention of the State was to find out circumstances that led to her hospitalisation on September 22, 2016, and not the appropriateness of treatment.
“The composition of a body by itself would give a clue about the intention behind the reference. The 11-point Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Commission were to just find out what treatment was given to the late Chief Minister, not to give a qualitative judgment on the adequacy, appropriateness or efficacy of the treatment given to her,” he said.
The Commission could collect details of treatment only to the limited extent of finding out the circumstances that led to her hospitalisation. “For example, if treatment had been given to remove poison from her body, with that one may suspect that she could have been poisoned before her hospitalisation. The other aspect that could be inquired into is whether she was given any treatment at all or let to pass away without any treatment. That’s all, nothing beyond,” he said.
Making it clear that his submissions were two-fold, the senior counsel said he would first attempt to convince the court that the commission had no authority to inquire into the appropriateness or efficacy of treatment rendered to Jayalalithaa since those issues were not part of its TOR. However, if the court was not convinced, he urged it to constitute an independent medical board and make it an integral part of the existing commission.
Mr. Sundaram contended that Mr. Arumughaswamy, learned that he may be in the field of law, but lacked the expertise to sift through voluminous medical evidence running for nearly 10,000 pages. “Suppose if the government wants to find out whether the technology used in Rafael jets is better than the one used in MIG-21, will it appoint me to lead a one-member Commission of Inquiry. Naturally it will appoint experts in that field. The same logic will apply here too,” he added.
When senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan, representing the CoI, interjected during the arguments and said it was too premature on the part of Apollo to have rushed to the High Court apprehending possible damage to its reputation even before the Commission could submit its report to the government, Mr. Sundaram retorted: “It is like telling someone that you have not been hanged so far and therefore why have you come to the court before being hanged.”
He claimed the reputation of the hospital had already been damaged by the Commission to a great extent by taking an adversarial position against the institution. Copies of the proceedings of the Commission were being sent to media houses by e-mail, whereas the hospital was being asked to make individual applications to obtain them. He also said the CoI was following weird practices of filing petitions and even counter statements to the hospital’s applications.
Stating that the Commission had rejected the hospital’s application for constitution of a medical board, Mr. Sundaram said: “If the Commission is going to file a counter statement to my application for constitution of a medical board before itself what is the order I’ll get from the Commission? I don’t understand who is my opposite party? The moment the Commission takes an adversarial position, the whole proceedings get vitiated,” he argued.
Referring to a notice received by the petitioner hospital from the CoI asking it produce details of treatment provided to former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran in the hospital in 1984 as well as the subsequent treatment provided to him after he was shifted to Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York that year, Mr. Sundaram said: “How can I produce details of treatment provided in Brooklyn in 1984?”
After hearing him at length, the judges adjourned further hearing on the case to Tuesday when senior counsel P.S. Raman would make his submissions on behalf of the petitioner hospital followed by counter arguments by Advocate General Vijay Narayan and Mr. Sundaresan.