Before dismissing his plea, Chief Justice Dipak Misra told Joseph's lawyer: “The High Court has accepted your challenge. Now do you wish for the inquiry to continue or not? We do not intend to interfere with the order of the High Court”
The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea against the decision of Madras High Court which upheld the validity of an inquiry commission set up by Tamil Nadu government to probe the death of former Chief Minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa.
One Chennai-based P A Joseph had filed the plea alleginig that “there was a possibility of undue influence and bias as the panel was set up by the state government itself without any resolution passed by the state assembly”
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud did not find any merit in the plea and dismissed it.
Joseph contended that “in the constitution of the commission, the State Government had failed to comply with the requirements of section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 and Rules 172-180 of Chapter 18 of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Rules, as the resolution was not duly passed by the State Legislature before setting up the one-man commission under the chairmanship of retired Madras High Court judge Justice A. Arumugasamy.
74 days after being admitted to Apollo Hospital, Jayalalithaa, 68, passed away on December 6 last year after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.
It is to be noted that it was on the prayer of Joseph, in an earlier writ petition seeking the creation of a panel comprising of three retired Supreme Court judges, on similar lines as the Mukherjee commission on the death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, that the Madras High Court directed the State Government to set up a commission to conduct inquiry into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Jayalalithaa.
The view adopted by the High Court was that in the light of the contradicting reports and speeches of MPs and MLAs regarding the hospitalisation, treatment and subsequent death of Jayalalithaa and in the absence of the involvement of an investigating agency by the State, it became pertinent to serve the right of the public to know the truth by ordering the establishment of an inquiry commission.
Thereafter, the petitioner moved the High Court in another writ petition, this time his grievance arising not from the appointment of a retired High Court as the head of the commission, but the manner in which the panel was constituted by the state government, depriving the Centre of its right to establish an autonomous commission.
The petitioner feared that on account of the entire State machinery having been party to the episode of the mysterious death, any inquiry by such a commission shall not be free from undue influence, coercion and concealment or tampering of material facts.
On 4th October, 2017, the High Court dismissed the said petition, holding that where the State Government is of the opinion that a matter is one of public importance, it may constitute a commission to inquire there into even without a resolution to that effect being passed by the State Legislative Assembly and that there were no concrete grounds for believing that a retired High Court judge would not be able to function independently and outside the sway of the State of Tamil Nadu. Thereupon, the petitioner approached the apex court with the plea of fresh inquiry.
But Joseph was not successful in Supreme Court too
The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra told Joseph: “The High Court has accepted your challenge. Now do you wish for the inquiry to continue or not? We do not intend to interfere with the order of the High Court”. The SC dismissed the plea.