The Justice (retired) A. Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry into the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told the Supreme Court on Thursday that only four witnesses remain to be examined and the panel should be allowed to complete its work and place its fact-finding report before the State Legislative Assembly.
A Bench headed by Justice Abdul S. Nazeer assured the Commission, represented by senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, that its submissions in this regard would be heard in detail on September 23.
The proceedings before the Commission were stayed by the Supreme Court in April 2019 on the basis of a plea by Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, where Jayalalithaa died in 2016, that the inquiry panel’s functioning was “replete with bias”.
“Only four witnesses are left to be examined. A fact-finding inquiry report should be presented in the House. The House will then decide… 155 witnesses have been examined… only four more. The inquiry has been pending since 2017,” Mr. Kumar submitted.
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Tamil Nadu government, represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Joseph S. Aristotle, said the Commission needed to complete its work. Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, for Apollo, agreed with the court’s decision to schedule the case for hearing next week.
In 2019, the court had stayed the inquiry after Apollo alleged that the Commission , instead of conducting an impartial inquiry, had transformed itself into an adversary. Mr. Sundaram had then argued for the hospitals that the proceedings before the inquiry panel was causing “grave prejudice” to the hospital’s reputation.
Mr. Sundaram had at the time informed the court that the Justice Arumughaswamy Commission was even filing applications “on its own behalf before itself” alleging that the hospital had shown negligence in the treatment of Jayalalithaa.
Apollo Hospitals had submitted that the Commission, instead of conducting an impartial probe, had filed a pleading alleging “criminal intent” on the part of the hospital and its doctors.
Mr. Sundaram had submitted that the Commission had even asked for the medical reports of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, who died in 1987.
Apollo Hospitals had submitted that the elaborate medical reports about the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa was released in March 2017 to end speculations.
Tamil Nadu had, in 2019, urged the court to not stay the Commission proceedings. However, the Bench had refused to oblige the State and proceeded to freeze the inquiry.
The State had appointed the inquiry commission headed by Justice Arumughaswamy, a retired Madras High Court judge, on September 25, 2017 . The Commission’s reference was to examine the circumstances which led to the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa on September 22, 2016 and the nature of treatment given in order to determine the cause of hospitalisation.