'Mystery' behind Jayalalithaa's death: A recap

During Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation here, a cardio thoracic surgeon from USA, Dr. Samin Sharma, recommended a life-saving cardiac surgery in view of vegetation in her heart.
Former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa
Former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa File

CHENNAI: Former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa was declared dead on December 5, 2016, at 11.30 pm after she had a cardiac arrest. The leader was hospitalised on September 22 and continued to spend the 75 days there until she breathed her last.

Ever since then, circumstances leading to her death have been a point of debate and several leaders across political parties sought detailed probe into it.

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Where it all started?

Two months after her death in 2016, senior AIADMK leader PH Pandian had alleged the former chief minister was pushed from her Poes Garden residence, which led to hospitalisation. He even claimed that her closest aide VK Sasikala had allegedly given ‘slow poison’ to Jayalalithaa.

Following this, a one-man commission of retired Justice of the Madras High Court was constituted in 2017 by then chief minister O. Pannerselvam to enquire into the circumstances that led to the hospitalisation and her death.

Later on September 25, 2017, Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission was formally constituted by then chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

Apollo told to submit affidavit

The commission ordered Apollo Hospitals to submit an affidavit with details on the loss of CCTV footage from the time of hospitalisation. The commission held that no CCTV footage was made available to it because the cameras covering the second floor of the hospital where the late CM was treated were made dysfunctional deliberately.

Then MLA Manoj Pandian had said there were many contradictions in the testimonies provided and raised doubts regarding the absent CCTV footage and why no other leader was allowed to meet Jayalalithaa during her hospitalisation.

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SC stays inquiry commission proceedings

In 2019, the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings of an inquiry commission while hearing the appeal of Apollo Hospitals against the April 4 order of the Madras High Court rejecting its objection against the ongoing probe.

The Madras High Court had on April 4, 2019 rejected Apollo Hospital's objections to an inquiry commission. The court had refused to stall proceedings of the commission and disposed of the petition filed by the hospital seeking to quash the government orders.It had disagreed with the hospital's contention that a retired judge of the high court (Arumughaswamy) cannot be the competent person to deal with the complex and intricate medical treatment and hence experts and professionals should be included in the panel.

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608-page final report to Stalin

On August 27, 2022, the Arumughaswamy Commission, submitted his three-volume report to Chief Minister MK Stalin. Arumugasamy also disclosed that there was nothing suspicious in (circumstances under which) how Jayalalithaa was brought to the hospital.

Talking to mediapersons after submitting the 608-page report in Tamil (500 pages in English) to the Chief Minister at the Secretariat, Arumugasamy said that he initially thought visiting her bungalow would help prepare a full fledged report.

On not visiting Poes Garden, Arumughaswamy, however, said, “She was brought to the hospital from there (house). There was nothing suspicious in it. So, it (visiting Poes Garden) was not necessary.”

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Panel indicts Sasikala, govt says action after legal opinion

The Tamil Nadu government, which tabled the Commission of Inquiry's (CoI) report in the Assembly on Tuesday said it would initiate action after getting legal opinion. The Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry (CoI) said, they "have to be found fault with and investigation is to be ordered." Sasikala is indicted considering several aspects, it said. K S Sivakumar is her relative.

The government said that it was decided to initiate appropriate action against "certain individuals," after obtaining the opinion of legal experts. This is in view of the CoI's recommendations in its report.

The panel recommended investigation against former State Chief Secretary Rama Mohana Rao and two medical doctors, Dr YVC Reddy and Dr Babu Abraham. It however, did not specify if it found "fault" with them or not.

The panel also has pointed the finger at hospital over the timing of her death, on not choosing a recommended surgical option and on not backing her treatment abroad.

As regards the first part of the ToR, on circumstances leading to her hospitalisation, the Commission said it, "has not found anything abnormal or unnatural" in the conduct of people including Sasikala. Adequate care was taken to shift Jayalalithaa to the Apollo Hospitals promptly without delay, it said.

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Controversy surrounding angiography

During Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation here, a cardio thoracic surgeon from USA, Dr Samin Sharma, recommended a life saving cardiac surgery in view of vegetation in her heart.

Sharma examined her in the hospital on November 25, 2016 and discussed it with Jayalalithaa and she was conscious and gave her consent to the surgery.

It was, however, not performed after a UK doctor, who was an intensivist, gave an opinion that a cardiac surgery was not needed. When Dr Sharma was confident to perform the angiography procedure, what was the necessity to bring an intensivist into the picture, the panel wondered.

Therefore, the commission said it concluded that the hospital doctor "played a trick" to bypass performance of angiography to convince "some power centre," and the intensivist gave an opinion that surgery can be postponed.

Sasikala was the one and the only person consulted by doctors, more particularly the doctors of Apollo Hospitals on the course of the treatment and only upon her consent they proceeded, the CoI said.

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Gross variation in version of paramedical personnel

The unequivocal and unambiguous version of nurses, technicians, and duty doctors was that she suffered a cardiac failure before 3.50 PM on December 4, 2016 and that there was no electric activity in her heart and no blood circulation.

The Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was performed belatedly and is claimed to have been commenced at 4.20 PM.

This would, ultimately prove that she passed away on December 4, 2016 at 3.50 PM itself and the CPR and sternotomy exercises were futile and these have been used as a ploy to explain away the delay in the official declaration of her death.

O Panneerselvam was all along an insider and a part of the inner circle and whatever transpired was within his knowledge. On her demise, he assumed the office of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu without any loss of time.

The panel submitted its report to the government on 27 August this year and it was taken up for discussion in the Cabinet meeting held on 29 August 20.

Former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa
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(With inputs from Bureau and PTI)

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