Sometimes, only a thin line separates use of power from its misuse. Political calculations, not medical sense or public interest, went into the setting up of the inquiry commission probing the circumstances that led to the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016. In order to ease the process of re-integrating himself with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) after a period of isolation, former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam laid a precondition for his coming back to the fold — a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death. The AIADMK’s Edappadi K. Palaniswami found it easy to acquiesce as the purported antagonist — V.K. Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s aide — was a common enemy. Thus, the A. Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was constituted in September 2017. The first sign of trouble in this post mortem deconstruction was when Apollo Hospitals, where Jayalalithaa was treated until her death, claimed the CoI was seeking to fix criminal intent on the part of the hospital. The hospital approached the Madras High Court pleading that the CoI was not qualified to inquire into the correctness of treatment meted out, and went on to suggest, as it did to the CoI in 2018, that a medical board be constituted to assist the judge, but it was rejected. The Supreme Court stayed the proceedings before the CoI in April 2019. In 2021, the Supreme Court favoured the constitution of a medical panel from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, to advise the CoI. This panel submitted its report earlier this month, agreeing with the hospital’s submission that Jayalalithaa had suffered a matrix of diseases, for which she was given correct and appropriate treatment, and averred with the final diagnosis.
After umpteen extensions, the CoI finally submitted its report on August 27. It has recommended that the government conduct an inquiry into the role of a few persons, including Sasikala, who did not depose in person before it. Interestingly, the man who was responsible for the CoI, Mr. Panneerselvam too delayed his deposition until March this year, and remained largely non-committal even when he appeared. Evidently, the political advantage the commission provided for the AIADMK had ceased to be relevant. In the interregnum, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has taken over the reins of the State. To now flog this issue beyond death would be sorely lacking in sagacity, and mark a new low in politicking. The government will do well to put this non-issue to rest once and for all. No political mileage can be squeezed from this report by anyone.