After a long legal battle, the Madras High Court on Wednesday, 24 November, cancelled the acquisition of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam residence in Chennai’s Poes Garden.
The Madras High Court has now transferred the ownership of the Poes Garden residence to Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa and nephew Deepak. Last year, the residence had been handed over to the previous AIADMK government, which had planned to convert it into a memorial and throw it open to the public.
The court has now directed the state government to hand over the residence to Jayalalithaa’s family members.
The court also said the keys of the residence should be handed over to the two of them in one week’s time and that the Income Tax Department can begin its proceedings to collect pending tax on the property.
An amount of Rs 67.9 crore which was deposited by the government as purchase price for the residence can also be recovered.
In January this year, the then AIADMK government had sought to throw open Veda Nilayam to the public. However, after Deepa and Deepak moved court, filing separate petitions, Justice N Seshasayee ordered that the inauguration ceremony alone can take place as scheduled on 28 January but that the nearly five-decade old residential property should not be opened to the public until the court issued further orders. The right, title and the interest of the heirs of Jayalalithaa cannot be marginalised, the court had held at the time.
The petitions were filed in August last year, after the High Court had held that Deepa and her brother J Deepak, were the legal heirs of Jayalalithaa in respect of the latter's ancestral and self-acquired properties.
In her petition, Deepa had said that the Poes Garden residence was purchased by her grandmother NR Sandhya alias Vedha Jayaraman in the year 1967. The residence was named as "Veda Nilayam'' after her grandmother.
Deepa has also contended the acquisition of Veda Nilayam will hamper the proceedings of the Justice Arumugasamy Commission enquiring into the suspicious death of Jayalalithaa.
"The acquisition proceeding has to be stopped immediately otherwise the evidence required by Hon'ble Justice Arumugasamy Commission may be destroyed. The state government cannot take two stands. On one side, a Commission was appointed and on the other side acquisition proceedings are taking place. If the latter persists, the former will fail. The attitude of the state government will definitely affect the course of any such enquiry," Deepa said in her plea.
"It is a sheer shame on the part of the state government by taking the personal belongings of a woman including her clothes and ornaments. It is unfair and indecent and harms the dignity of a woman. I cannot allow any forms of insult by such acts on my aunt as she is like a mother to me," Deepa added.
Deepa said her family has a history in Veda Nilayam and have several treasures from our forefathers - metal treasures like gold, silver, copper, platinum, diamonds and various precious metals. "The antiques are of high value and heritage and were passed on to my aunt by our great grandfather who was a physician in the Royal Palace of Mysore," she said.
Deepa contended that she and her brother are the legal heirs of Jayalalithaa and are entitled for the latter's belongings. As part of the plan to convert Veda Nilayam into a memorial, the Tamil Nadu government had announced that it had deposited Rs 67.9 crore as the purchase price with a city civil court. The Chennai district administration made public the acquisition and declared that the property was encumbrance-free and vested with the state government. The Rs 67.9 crore included the Rs 36.8 crore income and wealth tax dues and the compensation to the two legal heirs of Jayalalithaa, Deepak and Deepa.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)