With V K Sasikala, close aide of late J Jayalalithaa and former chief of AIADMK, expected to be released from a Bengaluru prison in the next few months, the Tamil Nadu government is looking to keep the late Chief Minister’s property in its custody.
Sasikala, convicted in a disproportionate assets case, is expected to be released from prison after October. Jayalalithaa was also convicted in the case, but the verdict came after her death.
On Thursday, Deepak, son of Jayalalithaa’s late brother Jayakumar, moved a petition in Madras High Court, seeking the keys to Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa where he lived until her death.
Deepak’s move came amid reports of the state government’s plans to acquire Veda Nilayam and convert it into the official residence of the Chief Minister. Unlike many other states, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister doesn’t have a designated official residence as all previous Chief Ministers, at least in the past five decades, chose to live in their own homes in Chennai.
A day before Deepak moved his petition, the residents’ association of Poes Garden moved the High Court, objecting to the government’s plan to convert the house into a memorial, arguing that it would disturb peace of the neighbourhood.
In its reply, the government said they plan to convert a portion of Veda Nilayam into the official residence of the Chief Minister. The government also told the court that it would acquire movable and immovable properties of the late Chief Minister. The government also submitted that the suggestion of a division bench of the high court to convert a major portion of the property into the official residence was under consideration.
Deepak’s move to seek keys to the residence is yet another chapter in the fight over Jayalalithaa’s properties even as he, and his sister Deepa, have been declared by court as legal heirs of Jayalalithaa. “They are legal heirs but a standing ordinance from the government to acquire it has to be set aside. Deepak has to challenge the ordinance first. So even if the court declared them as legal heirs, the government holds control over the property, technically, until they ascertain the late Jayalalithaa’s assets,” said a source.
The government can acquire Veda Nilayam for a public cause, such as using it as the official residence of the Chief Minister after paying an adequate compensation to the legal heirs, an official said. If there are objections, the official added, they may be heard but the government can go ahead with the acquisition.
Politically too, AIADMK has reasons to retain the custody of Veda Nilayam because they fear a move from Sasikala to come and stay there after her release.
Sasikala, who lived in Veda Nilayam with the late Chief Minister for nearly three decades until her death, is known to be close to Deepak.
A senior government official said Veda Nilayam need not be converted into a memorial as a mega memorial project for Jayalalithaa is being completed on the city’s beachside. “Maybe a small portion of Veda Nilayam can be used as a museum, but the structure is being considered to be used as the official residence of the Chief Minister. We are expected to complete the work by August,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines