CHENNAI: The inquiry commission set up to probe former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's death in a Chennai hospital last year will also investigate the circumstances that led to the AIADMK matriarch's hospitalisation in September last year. Her death three months later was followed by conspiracy theories around her illness and death that have been reinforced over the last week by AIADMK party leaders who alleged they weren't allowed to see their ailing leader.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was among the first top AIADMK leaders to have fuelled the theory that there was more to Jayalalithaa's death than what was in public domain back in February when he, then struggling to retain the Chief Minister's post, had complained how he too had never got to see her in hospital.
O Panneerselvam, or OPS, had later made a full-fledged inquiry into their leader's death a pre-condition for the reunion with the faction led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami. Th demand was seen to be targeting VK Sasikala, Jayalalithaa's long-time aide who was the only one with access to their leader at hospital too.
Chief Minister E Palaniswami agreed to the inquiry by a retired high court judge last month but hadn't outlined the contours of the inquiry.
Wednesday evening's order indicated the government had given the retired high court judge A Arumugasamy a free hand.
A government order said the commission would inquire "into the circumstances and situation leading to the hospitalisation of the late Hon'ble Chief Minister (Jayalalithaa) on 22 September 2016 and subsequent treatment provided till her unfortunate demise" on 5 December 2016."
Justice Arumugasamy, 65, has been given three months to report his findings.
The announcement came after a spate of statements from leaders of the ruling AIADMK on the restricted access that they had to Jayalalithaa in hospital.
Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu Minister OS Manian had spoken how party leaders were not allowed to see the former chief minister at hospital before her death but were only briefed on her health by the hospital's chairman Prathap Reddy and the state's health secretary, J Radhakrishnan.
Forest Minister Dindigul Srinivasan had last week apologised for party leaders having made claims like they saw "Amma eating idlis" at the hospital in all-is-well reports.
But another minister, Sellur Raju, said he had and other colleagues had met Ms Jayalalithaa, contradicting Mr Srinivasan, who claimed that party leaders lied because they were afraid of VK Sasikala, Ms Jayalalithaa's long-time aide, who took control of the party after her death.
Sasikala, who is now in jail in a corruption case, was recently evicted from the party along with her nephew Dhinakaran, but they are fighting back against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami, who has joined hands with OPS, now his deputy after their factions of the AIADMK merged.