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If the Arumugaswamy Commission has uncovered something so far, it is a truism: political gain rules politicians, not loyalty and principles.

Setting up the commission was a pre-condition for O Panneerselvam rejoining the AIADMK headed by then chief minister Edappadi Palaniswamy. OPS who was deputy chief minister had broken away demanding that Sasikala and her family be kept out of the AIADMK. He alleged Jayalalithaa’s death needed to be probed. He called it dharma yuddham, a righteous battle. He said he will speak the truth to the commission.

As the political winds changed course, OPS dodged testifying before the Arumugaswamy Commission until the very end, after eight summons were served on him. By that time, his own position in the AIADMK had weakened and he has been sidelined by his partner-in-power Edappadi Palaniswamy.

OPS is now looking for options to stay relevant. In a sign of rapprochement with Sasikala against whom he had launched the dharma yuddham, his brother and two others from the Theni AIADMK met with Sasikala recently.

Appearing before the panel, OPS said he personally had no suspicions about Jayalalithaa’s death. And that he demanded the inquiry only because there were no doubts in people’s minds.

Appearing before the panel, OPS said he personally had no suspicions about Jayalalithaa’s death. And that he demanded the inquiry only because there were doubts in people’s minds.

If that was indeed the case, he could have said so during the commission of the panel. He could have said he did not suspect any foulplay, given that he was a key player in the government at that time. But OPS did not. He staked his political career on the suspicions and sought to benefit from people’s nagging doubts and suspicion that Jayalalithaa was done in.

OPS told the panel he did not see Jayalalithaa for 74 days in the hospital though the health minister at that time, Vijay Bhaskar, said OPS was there when Jayalalithaa was taken for a tracheostomy in October of 2016.

Nearly a year after the panel was constituted and in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, the Arumugaswamy Commission pointedly started seeing a conspiracy, collusion and other such behavior on the part of Apollo Hospitals and then health secretary J Radhakrishnan. The panel’s standing counsel made these observations. The panel asked why Jayalalithaa was not given an angiogram and why she was not taken abroad for treatment. Dr Richard Beale, an intensivist from the UK, said Jayalalithaa herself did not want to be taken abroad.

Apollo Hospitals went to court in 2019 and argued that Justice Arumugaswamy was not qualified to evaluate and pass judgment on the voluminous medical records. It said the panel was biased and had prejudged the outcome. The hospital group even wanted to keep out of the purview of the commission the assessment of the medical aspects. The Supreme Court stayed the panel in April 2019. The pandemic intervened and the panel was put in cold storage.

The DMK government has told Supreme Court that the panel was necessary given Jayalalithaa’s death. Soon after her death, her house in Kodanad Estate was burgled, following which three employees there died under mysterious circumstances.

Hearings on the Apollo Hospitals prayer before the Supreme Court started last year during which the court ordered the constitution of the medical board. The medical board consisting of experts from AIIMS heard witnesses through video-conferencing.

The DMK government has told Supreme Court that the panel was necessary given Jayalalithaa’s death. Soon after her death, her house in Kodanad Estate was burgled, following which three employees there died under mysterious circumstances.

The panel has cost the public Rs 3.5 crore, heard some 160 witnesses, and has got 12 extensions. The question is if it can say anything conclusive regarding the circumstances of Jayalalithaa’s death without caveats. The evaluation of the medical board would have to be weighed and carefully integrated into the report.


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