CHENNAI: Even while upholding the power of Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission to inquire into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa by Apollo Hospital, the Madras High Court on Thursday said the panel had exceeded its limit.
A division bench of Justices R Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy, which upheld the two GOs constituting the commission, pointed out that it is only a fact-finding body. During the course of the inquiry, it should not have attributed ‘collusion’, ‘conspiracy’ or ‘fraud’ against the hospital. Therefore, the bench said, that it found some force in the submission of the hospital that the commission had exceeded its scope and ambit in conducting the inquiry proceedings by attributing negligence or collusion against the hospital even before the submission of final report to the government. The commission could have avoided this, the bench said.
The judges further observed that the commission cannot determine the rights or liabilities or decide any question of guilt or innocence on any one, who is part of the inquiry before it, since the panel is not dealing with a lis between two wrangling parties. The bench hoped that the commission will confine its inquiry strictly within the ambit of terms of reference by the government.
The bench was disposing of two writ petitions from the hospital. It said that it was of the view that if the commission is restrained from going into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by the petitioner hospital, it would only defeat the very object with which the government had appointed the panel. Merely because it ventures into the adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment, it cannot be said that it is expanding the scope of the inquiry beyond the terms of reference. “Therefore, we are of the view that the commission is empowered to go into the appropriateness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment given by the petitioner hospital to the former Chief Minister, as mandated by the government,” the bench said.
Even if a final report is submitted by the panel to the government, either way, yet, it is for the government to act upon it and it is open to the hospital to challenge the same at a later point of time, the bench said.
Jayalalithaa was admitted in the hospital on September 22, 2016 and died on December 5 the same year. The government issued two GOs, one on September 25 and the other two days later on 27, 2017, constituting the commission and fixing the terms of reference.