EXPRESSING STRONG reservations against the use of public money to acquire and convert private properties into memorials, the Madras High Court Wednesday declared the niece and nephew of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK founder, the late J Jayalalithaa, as Class II legal heirs of her property.
The ruling comes days after the AIADMK state government passed an ordinance to take temporary possession of Veda Nilayam, Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai, to establish the Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa Memorial Foundation.
A division bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice Abdul Quddhose held that the government cannot acquire Veda Nilayam without the consent of the legal heirs, but suggested that it could utilise the half-acre property, valued at over Rs 100 crore, as the official residence of the state Chief Minister and convert a portion into a memorial.
At the same time, the bench allowed an application filed by Jayalalithaa’s niece J Deepa and nephew J Deepak, and granted a letter of administration to the siblings for administering the properties.
“When there are so many essential amenities which are yet to be provided by the welfare state, public money cannot be wasted for the purpose of constructing memorials. The real tribute to any leader should be paid by following his/her principles and working for the benefit of the people and development of the society,” the court held.
The court said that if the state acquires the land, it has to determine and pay compensation to the legal heirs. It suggested that the compensation “could be utilised for developmental purposes such as building infrastructure, providing potable drinking water, cleaning of water bodies etc…”
The bench passed the order on pleas by Deepa and Deepak, seeking permission to administer their aunt’s properties in their capacity as Class 2 legal heirs.
Deepa, 44, and Deepak, 37, are the children of Jayalalithaa’s late brother Jayakumar, and were not seen to have been close to their aunt after the death of their father in 1995. Deepa’s last meeting with Jayalalithaa was in 2002, and her aunt did not visit her even on her mother’s death in 2013. Deepa and her husband were also denied permission to see Jayalalithaa in Chennai’s Apollo Hospital where the former CM was undergoing treatment before her death in December 2016.
Deepak, however, had developed a close relationship with the family of Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala and took part in the funeral procession following his aunt’s death.
Earlier, in an observation during the hearing, the court raised the idea of keeping a portion of Jayalalithaa’s properties for public welfare, following which Deepa and Deepak clarified that they had no objection.
“But as the only legal heirs of Jayalalithaa, we are entitled to all her properties. We have plans to establish a trust in her name and do charity to the people through it,” they told the court through their counsel.
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