A travesty of justice: On Jayalalithaa death probe panel

Shocking lapses mar the Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry report

October 20, 2022 12:10 am | Updated October 22, 2022 02:34 am IST

An investigation report is not a clean slate on which the investigator can record his whimsy that flies in the face of facts. Did the Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry’s final report clarify the circumstances that led to the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, as mandated by the terms of reference or did it rest with a conclusion that followed a preset diabolical script, accentuating conspiracy theories hatched within a context of political opportunism? The report that was submitted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday found fault with Jayalalithaa’s aide V.K. Sasikala, former Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, two IAS officers, and three doctors, and recommended further investigation against them. However, it falls perplexingly short of explaining where the fault lay with those it found culpable, or tracing a damning trail of evidence to their doorstep. Justice Arumughaswamy, trained as a lawyer and not in medicine, makes post-facto judgments about the medical procedures (angio/surgery for a heart condition) that must have been followed in treating Jayalalithaa during her 75-day stint at Apollo hospital, and goes further out of line to make allegations against qualified medical professionals in charge of treatment, based on these conjectures. In a glaring lapse, he completely sidesteps the AIIMS medical experts’ committee’s (constituted by the Supreme Court of India) report released earlier, agreeing with the treatment course, and the final diagnosis by the hospital.

The report cherry picks elements from the range of options provided by a panel of doctors, and part-phrases from depositions that suit a seemingly pre-determined narrative to arrive at conclusions. Worse, it peddles lies to heap calumny on respondents and witnesses, particularly obvious when it asks why Jayalalithaa was not taken abroad for treatment after she had agreed to it, ignoring documentation enclosed as part of the report recording that she categorically refused to be shifted out of the country for treatment. The report itself encloses elaborate documentation on treatment from the hospital and yet, unfathomably, accuses it of not providing contra-evidence or documents (on the surgery aspect). Coming five years after the commission of inquiry was constituted, and nearly six years after the death of Jayalalithaa, the report makes no attempt to render any justice, but steps out of line in making unqualified calls on medicine, and reeks of malfeasance. The Tamil Nadu government has done its duty by presenting the report in the Assembly, and seeking legal opinion on it. It is now obligated to render true justice in the matter by ensuring that this long-drawn-out issue is well and truly buried, along with the report.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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