SC stays inquiry commission proceedings into Jayalalithaa’s death at Apollo Hospitals

The Supreme Court Friday stayed the proceedings of an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai in 2016.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing the appeal of Apollo Hospitals against the April 4 order of the Madras High Court rejecting its objection against the ongoing inquiry into the death of the AIADMK leader at the hospital.

“Notice. Stay of further proceedings of the inquiry commission,” the bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

The AIADMK-led state government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016 at Apollo Hospitals.

The Madras High Court had on April 4 rejected Apollo Hospital’s objections to an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of Jayalalithaa looking into aspects of treatment given to her.

As mandated by its terms of reference, the Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry was empowered and entitled to go into the appropriateness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment given to Jayalalithaa during her 75-day hospitalisation in 2016, it said.

The high court had refused to stall proceedings of the commission and disposed of the petition filed by the hospital seeking to quash the government orders which laid down terms and reference of the probe panel.

It had also rejected the prayer of the hospital for setting up a medical board to assist the panel during the inquiry.

The high court had said if a harmonious interpretation was made to terms of reference, the government was careful enough to include the word “subsequent treatment provided till her unfortunate demise on December 5, 2016”.

This meant the nature and extent of treatment given by Apollo Hospitals, which includes appropriateness, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment, the court had said.

“We are of the view that if the commission is restrained from going into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by the petitioner hospital, it would only defeat the very object with which the government had appointed the commission of inquiry,” it had said.

Therefore, the panel can go into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by Apollo Hospitals by screening the records produced before it and arrive at a conclusion, the bench had said.

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.

It had said that even in the absence of inclusion of experts or professionals, as per Section 5B of Commission of Inquiry Act, the commission can independently take the aid of any person who, in its opinion, shall be of assistance for conducting the inquiry.

Referring to the hospital’s charge that its doctors were repeatedly questioned and harassed, the high court had said it was not inclined to accept the submissions that witnesses (doctors) were wantonly, willfully and deliberately harassed by the commission.

The government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of the AIADMK supremo, citing doubts expressed by various people.

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