Jaya death probe: Was hospital floor really under police surveillance?

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa | PTI

Proceedings in the commission inquiring into the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa took a curious turn on Thursday when the state intelligence chief deposed that the intelligence wing was not aware of who had visited Jayalalithaa during her 75-day-long hospitalisation.

Intelligence Chief K.N. Sathiyamoorthy told the Justice Arumughaswamy Commission, which has been conducting an inquiry since last October, that no log of visitors was maintained at the hospital and he was not aware on whose instructions the CCTV cameras at the hospital's second floor were removed or switched off.

Though the entire second floor of the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, where Jayalalithaa was admitted from September 22, 2016 to December 5, 2016, was closely monitored and watched by the state intelligence wing, Sathiyamoorthy reportedly said that he wasn’t aware of the details of who had seen Jayalalithaa.

Sathiyamoorthy also informed the Arumughaswamy Commission that no escort vehicle accompanied Jayalalithaa's ambulance on September 22, 2016, when she was taken to the Apollo Hospitals as he didn’t know beforehand about Jayalalithaa’s health issues. He said both the SPG and the intelligence department did not have information on Jayalalithaa's health condition prior to her hospitalisation.

Incidentally, Sathiyamoorthy is one of the most senior police officers in the state, who was hand-picked by Jayalalithaa during her term to the intelligence department.

Sathiyamoorthy also informed the Arumughaswamy Commission that he was not in the know of the previous health issues and ailments of the former chief minister prior to her hospitalisation.

Sathiyamoorthy’s deposition before the one-man commission has raised lot of doubts about whether the intelligence wing was actually monitoring the entire second floor during Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation as was claimed.

Gurumurthy summoned

Meanwhile, Thuglak editor S. Gurumurthy who was also summoned by the Arumughaswamy Commission, sources say, sought exemption from appearing before it, through a letter to Justice Arumughaswamy. Sources in the Arumughaswamy Commission say Gurumurthy in his letter had said that he met Jayalalithaa last in 2010, at the insistence of the magazine’s former editor Cho Ramasamy.

Sources also said that Gurumurthy sought time to appear before it after July 7, if at all the Arumughaswamy Commission insisted. Expelled AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala, who is currently in jail, had mentioned in her affidavit to the commission that Cho was responsible for her brief 'ouster' from Jayalalithaa's circle in 2011; she also named Cho's son and Gurumurthy in the affidavit. Cho’s son Karthik Sriram appeared before the commission.

Commission gets extension

In a related development, the Arumughaswamy Commission has been given an extension of four months by the state government. This is the second extension given to the commission, whose term ended on June 24. Its original term ended on December 24 and it was given a six-month extension. Sources say the Arumughaswamy Commission will soon summon more VIPs and others mentioned in Sasikala’s affidavit, as the probe into Jayalalithaa's death enters the final stages.

Moreover, Justice Arumughaswamy, sources confirm, will soon visit Apollo Hospitals, including the hospital's second floor and the critical care unit where Jayalalithaa spent her last days.

The Arumughaswamy Commission's visit, which was due to take place on June 15, according to sources in the commission, was postponed as the hospital authorities said that they need adequate notification, so that a visit didn’t cause inconvenience to the patients. However, the Arumughaswamy Commission and Apollo Hospitals, sources confirm, have come to an agreement that the lawyers of the commission and counsels of Sasikala will be allowed into the second floor and the room where Jayalalithaa was treated.