It is significant that the one-man commission of inquiry ordered into the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa is tasked also with probing the circumstances that led to her hospitalisation. While the final cause of death can be fixed easily enough in medical terms, the reasons why she was wheeled into the hospital in a semi-coherent or comatose state needs to be explained. The retired judge may face several challenges in the face of dodgy testimonies.
Politicians have been freely expressing diverse views on how accessible the patient was when she was in hospital where a veil of secrecy and an extremely tight regime of access was said to have been imposed by her long-time confidante V.K. Sasikala. The question is whether a commission of inquiry will bring out all the facts as too many such efforts have been known to produce ambiguous results, the Warren Commission that went into the assassination of John F. Kennedy being a leading example.
The circumstances leading to Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation were Kafkaesque. A number of queries have been raised as to the reasons why she came in such poor condition, and in a hospital ambulance rather than the designated one that is supposed to be parked at a CM’s residence. Her glucose parameters were abnormal as if to suggest that she was a day or two behind what may have been timely admission. The judge running the inquiry must be able to see through the medical jargon of her 75-day stay and come to a definitive conclusion on how the end came about for a leader with a mass following who showed she could beat at least once the alternating rule of Dravidian duopoly in being re-elected for what became her last and brief term. The clamour for an inquiry is understandable considering the hold her companion, now jailed for graft, had on the life of a public figure. The question is can the inquirer stumble upon the truth while sifting the evidence?
The facts of her hospital stay can be ascertained in medical terms from hospital records and the opinions of doctors, ranging from her private ones designated by the “Family” through the AIIMS experts sent by the Centre down to the intensive care specialist from London who had a key consultative role. Certain other facts also seem to have emerged, like Jaya’s remarkable recovery suggesting that her treatment was working up to the point she suffered the fatal cardiac arrest. What the commission must determine is whether she was under duress when developing the symptoms that led to the deterioration in her health and if the protocols that must be followed in the event of a major illness of the chief executive of a State were followed at all. It was impossible to separate the State from the personal in Jaya’s life, however hard she may have tried and that may was tragic for Tamil Nadu. What is left is to find the truth so there may be no more cloaks of secrecy in governance....