Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s jailed aide V.K. Sasikala has distanced herself from two writ petitions filed by Apollo Hospitals Enterprises before the Madras High Court questioning the authority of Justice A. Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to inquire into the correctness, adequacy and inadequacy of treatment provided to Jayalalithaa between September 22 and December 5, 2016.
Terms of reference
A Division Bench of Justices R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy was told by Sasikala’s counsel that she had no objections to the CoI proceeding with the inquiry and take it to its logical end in so far as non-medical witnesses were concerned.
However, “I don’t want to say anything on medical witnesses,” the counsel said and left it to the court to take a call on the issue after hearing the hospital and the commission.
The State government had constituted the CoI in 2017 to inquire into circumstances that led to the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa and the subsequent treatment provided till her death.
However, the hospital now contended before the High Court that the terms of reference of the commission does not include an inquiry into the correctness, adequacy or efficacy of the treatment and that it should confine itself to just finding out the nature of treatment provided.
Arguing on behalf of the CoI, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan, said the hospital could not be allowed to take such a stand now after having participated in the inquiry for nearly two years. Stating that examination of its doctors began in January 2018, he said: “At that stage itself, it was apparent that the medical aspects of treatment given to the Chief Minister was being gone into. They did not raise any objections and participated in the inquiry fully.
“Now as a knee-jerk reaction, they want to say medical aspects cannot be gone into. A party to the proceedings cannot prevent the commission from collecting materials, analysing it and offering its opinion to the government. If the petitioner’s case is allowed, then the commission itself will have to close down its work completely. The commission is well aware of its limitations and it will give its opinion only subject to those limitations,” he said.
The senior counsel also contended that the ground of bias could be pleaded only against authorities which perform judicial functions and not against a commission of inquiry. He also said it was not the commission but only the standing counsel for the commission who had filed a counter statement to an application filed by the hospital before the CoI for constitution of a 21-member medical board to go into medical aspects.
When Justice Subbiah asked whether a counsel could act without instructions from his client, Mr. Sundaresan replied even without the filing of that counter statement, the CoI had the powers to reject the plea for a medical board. He pointed out that the CoI’s standing counsel too had filed an application for impleading former Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao and former Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan but the commission was yet to entertain that application.
Claiming that 90% of the inquiry into circumstances that led to Jayalalithaa’s death was over and only a few more witnesses had to be examined, he accused the hospital of having approached the High Court with the intention of stalling the CoI from submitting its report to the government.
After hearing his arguments as well as interjections made by senior counsel P.S. Raman on behalf of the hospital, the judges adjourned the matter to Tuesday for further hearing.