Panel probing Jayalalithaa’s death to question Sasikala in Bengaluru jail
The one-man panel, probing the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, is looking to question her close confidant VK Sasikala, now incarcerated in a Bengaluru prison.
The justice (retd) Arumugasamy commission has written to the Karnataka prison department, seeking permission to examine Sasikala and record her statement. It has also written to Tamil Nadu home secretary, Niranjan Mardi, to facilitate the meeting. This is the first time that the panel has made such a request.
Sasikala was with Jayalalithaa for 75 days, right from her hospitalisation on September 22, 2016, till her death on December 5, 2016. In the light of the controversy surrounding her death and the treatment given to her, Sasikala’s role has come under scrutiny.
She is now lodged in Parapana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru after Supreme Court upheld her conviction along with Jayalalithaa and two others in the disproportionate wealth case.
In March this year, Sasikala had filed an over 50-page affidavit through her counsel after the panel reprimanded her for playing a hide and seek game by seeking more time.
The controversy arose after it was revealed that the CCTV cameras at the hospital were switched off on the instructions of top bureaucrats and police officials. Contradictory statements by surgeons and hospital staff during their deposition, on placing ECMO on Jayalalithaa, further stirred it up.
Constituted in September last year, the panel has been given three extensions. So far, it has examined over 130 witnesses, including IAS and IPS officers, doctors and staff of Apollo Hospitals as well as Jayalalithaa’s personal aides at her Poes Garden residence. The Apollo Hospital has submitted to the panel voluminous records pertaining to the treatment given to the late leader.
The commission is expected file its report after questioning Sasikala, by February 24, coinciding with Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary.
The constitution of the commission and the purging Sasikala’s kin from the AIADMK were the key demands of deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam for merging his faction with that of chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami of the party.