A shroud of secrecy surrounding Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s health may lift soon as the Madras high court instructed the state government to inform it about the ailing leader’s condition before Thursday.
“AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa is holding public office, and therefore her state of health must be clarified by government officials before October 6,” the HC said in its statement on Tuesday.
The 68-year-old CM has been in hospital for 12 days after being admitted for high fever and dehydration.
A lack of official information, save for a few terse press notes, has contributed to a flurry of rumours of her demise, despite stern warnings from the police.
On Friday, a case was registered against author Tamizhachi, who, in a Facebook post, claimed that Jayalalithaa had been dead for several days.
Altered photos, wild speculation, and even an audio clip purporting to be the CM’s voice have been spread via social media apps.
Activist KR “Traffic” Ramaswamy filed a PIL on Monday asking for a clarification on the chief minister’s health, saying that the public had a right to know whether she was conscious and able to hold important meetings.
During the hearing, the government pleader said there was no urgency to respond, as the hospital was releasing regular updates. But the court asked the pleader to respond to the PIL before October 6.
Previous calls for proof of the CM’s health, including a demand by her arch-rival, DMK leader Karunanidhi for a photo, have been rebuffed by the party.
“Amma is a woman and in hospital,” said C Saraswati, AIADMK spokesperson. ‘We are answerable only to the people, and not to the opposition.”
Speaking to HT, Ramaswamy said that it was the “public’s right” to know about the nature of her illness. “As chief minister, it is important for us to know about the nature of her illness, and whether she can discharge her duties,” he says.
“The hospital has sent regular updates saying that she is improving, without ever clarifying what the illness was in the first place,” he adds. “The public needs to know the truth.”
The hospital on Monday admitted that the six-time CM had been on a respirator, and had been treated for an “infection”.