The issues faced by the commission began with the filing of affidavit by VK Sasikala, who is a key to piecing together the last months of Jayalalithaa as she was by her bedside through the illness. Sasikala, who is lodged in the Parappana Aghrahara Jail in Bengaluru in a disproportionate assets case, delayed the filing of her affidavit. Sasikala’s counsel Raja Senthoor Pandian represented her before the commission.
The commission sent summons to Sasikala on January 21, 2018. After seeking more time on account of wanting all testimonies and subsequently the evidence lodged against her, Sasikala also sought that her counsel be allowed to cross-examine witnesses. The affidavit was finally filed after much delay on March 12, 2018. This cost significant time for the commission.
Another instance of delay has been owing to the commission’s attempts to set up a medical committee to go over the tranche of documents sent by Apollo Hospital. The commission first requested the State government to constitute the committee. The request was made and accepted by the State government on March 6. But subsequently, the government handed over the responsibility of constituting the committee to the inquiry commission on April 16, 2018. As reported on July 4, 2018, the commission was unable to constitute a committee as doctors in the State were reluctant to be involved in the matter. This caused a significant delay in analysing documents submitted by Apollo Hospitals on January 12, 2018.
Other delays to the proceedings have been caused by requests made on part of lawyers of the Sasikala camp to be recused for other business in the Supreme Court and illness to Justice Arumughasamy. These factors have slowed the pace of the inquiry commission, whose original term was to end with the final report of findings submitted on December 25, 2017.
Testimonies that May matter
Statements of these four persons who are yet to depose could influence the panel’s verdict
The Vice President of India, Venkaiah Naidu, who was then union minister was only of the few from the Central government to have visited Jayalalithaa during her hospitalisation. Naidu visited Jayalalithaa on October 9, 2016, and was briefed on her health by doctors. He was also present at Apollo on December 5, 2016. Sasikala’s affidavit states that he had been informed about Jayalalithaa being taken off life support. His recollection of the events could help piece together the state of Jayalalithaa’s health and who were present at the hospital.
Vidyasagar Rao served as acting governor from September 2, 2016 to October 6 2017. He was privy to details about the hospitalisation and treatment of Jayalalithaa. He had visited the ailing chief minister in hospital twice, once on October 1, 2016 and again on October 22, 2016. He penned the details in a memoir titled Those Eventful Days. A few contradictions have emerged between his account and Dr Sivakumar’s testimony. He is also likely to be able to provide the commission more details on the decision makers involved behind the scenes thus providing more clarity.
Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, a staunch Jaya loyalist, has been vocal about how none of the ministers and key party members had access to Jayalalithaa during her hospitalisation and were reliant on Sasikala and family for information. Sasikala, however, refuted this in her affidavit. The testimonies of others, including doctors from AIIMs, state that Panneerselvam, C Vijaya Baskar and M Thambidurai were present during briefings on Jaya’s health. Deposing before the commission will help the probe reconcile the various contradictions.
Dr Richard Beale
The UK based intensive care specialist was consulted on the treatment provided to Jayalalithaa. He had made statements during and after the death of the chief minister stating that though she received the best care, underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension worsened her state leading to her death. He had also held a press conference on February 6, 2017, stating the same. But with contradictions in the statements made in Apollo’s bulletins, calling on Dr Beale could provide clarity to the panel.