Could the commission have not cleared its doubts by speaking to her directly on her role?
Despite turning the media spotlight on V.K. Sasikala, the erstwhile confidante of J. Jayalalithaa, the Justice A. Arumughaswamy report has done nothing much either in unearthing any dark secret or in possibly changing the political scenario in the state. The commission of inquiry that went into the circumstances and situation leading to the hospitalisation of the late chief minister of Tamil Nadu on September 22, 2016, and the treatment provided till her demise on December 5, 2016, wants investigations against a few dramatis personae involved in the behind-the-curtains activities at the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai for 75 days.
After a prolonged probe, interrogating 159 witnesses and pursuing tons of documents, Justice Arumughaswamy found Ms Sasikala, some doctors who treated Jayalalithaa, the state health secretary of that time and the health minister liable to have done something amiss, warranting investigations. But the then chief minister of the state, O. Panneerselvam, is not on the list of suspects or accused, whichever way one may look at it. If Mr Panneerselvam was not aware of the treatment given to Ms Jayalalithaa, how could his health minister and secretary be made accountable for what should have been the collective responsibility of the government?
If the commission, in the course of its inquiry, had suspected Ms Sasikala of having committed some error, it could have called her to testify before it when she was very much in Chennai after her release from jail in January 2021. She had only filed a sworn affidavit on March 12, 2018. Could the commission have not cleared its doubts by speaking to her directly on her role, particularly the alleged stopping of the angio treatment for Ms Jayalalithaa, rather than recommending another investigation? The question assumes relevance in the context of her claim through a statement issued after the report was tabled in the state Assembly on Tuesday that she had only gone by the advice of the doctors from AIIMS.
But the report that is rather silent on the AIIMS doctors had speculated that another doctor had played a trick to postpone the angioplasty, the deprival of which eventually led to the deterioration of Jayalalithaa’s clinical conditions, besides unabashedly admitting to having not examined many doctors who treated Jayalalithaa. It raises the suspicion if the report has also based its claims on conjectures and speculations. Apart from not substantiating its claim that Ms Sasikala and Jayalalithaa were not on talking terms, the commission, in its bid to prove that the death was not announced immediately, has resorted to pointing at the time chosen by her nephew Deepak to perform obsequies (sashti tithi) to mark its first anniversary and not any hospital record.
Even if the people have no qualms in believing the commission otherwise, the apparent bid to besmirch the image of Ms Sasikala will have no impact politically. One, no one will doubt Ms Sasikala’s loyalty to her late friend and; two, she has already proved to be a spent force in the political arena.