In a big blow to the Tamil Nadu government’s bid to takeover Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence, the Madras High Court on Wednesday made it clear that the state government cannot acquire any of the properties of the former chief minister without issuing notice to her niece Deepa Jayakumar and nephew J. Deepak and paying them adequate compensation. The court declared both Deepa and Deepak as Jayalalithaa’s class II legal heirs and said that the two are entitled to all the properties left behind by the late AIADMK supremo.
The high court bench, comprising of Justices N. Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose, allowed an application filed by Deepak and granted Letter of Administration in favour of him and his sister Deepa. The bench also recorded the siblings’ undertaking that a few properties, to be selected as per their discretion, will be moved under a registered public trust in the name of their late aunt Jayalalithaa for the purpose of public and social service as per their affidavits.” The bench also ruled that the siblings should form the trust within a period of eight weeks.
The court dismissed the petition filed by AIADMK functionaries K. Pugazhenthi and P. Janakiraman for appointing them as administrators of the Rs 913 crore worth properties left behind by their leader.
After the demise of Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, Deepak approached the Tahsildar of Guindy Taluk in Chennai on August 16, 2017 seeking legal heirship certificate of his aunt. The Tahsildar informed Deepak to approach the civil court. Following this, with his sister Deepa as the respondent, Deepak approached the Madras High Court seeking Letters of Administration to administer the properties and credits of Jayalalithaa.
The bench, while hearing the petitions filed by Deepa and Deepak and the AIADMK functionaries, also advised the government to drop its decision to acquire Veda Nilayam and convert it into a memorial. The bench said that converting the Poes Garden bungalow into a memorial will be a waste of public money.
The bench also suggested that a portion of the Poes Garden property be converted into the chief minister’s residence-cum-office, as there is no permanent chief minister’s residence in Tamil Nadu. The judges directed the government to provide round the clock security to both Deepa and Deepak and that the siblings should bear the cost of the security. The bench also ordered that any one of the properties of Jayalalithaa could be liquidated to pay the Income Tax dues and Wealth Tax dues of the former chief minister.
The high court verdict had dashed the plans of the Tamil Nadu government to convert Jayalalithaa’s residence into a memorial. The government had promulgated an ordinance a few days ago to take over Veda Nilayam.
“I welcome the court’s order. I will soon approach the court once again seeking to quash the ordinance promulgated by the government to take over my aunt’s Poes Garden residence,” Deepa told to the Media.
In a free-wheeling conversation with Media, Deepa expressed happiness over the judgment and said that she was always against the plan to convert Jayalalithaa’s Veda Nilayam into a memorial. “The court has finally put a full stop to the debates and discussions over who are Jayalalithaa’s legal heirs. We will have to form the trust now within eight weeks. I will take legal consultations before forming the trust,” Deepa said.
As per the HC order, the properties and other immovable assets of Jayalalithaa account to Rs 913 crore. However, Jayalaltihaa’s election affidavit in 2016 stated that she had assets only worth Rs 117 crore.
In 2017, when AIAMDK leader O. Panneerselvam merged his faction with the ruling faction of Edappadi K. Palaniswami, he had placed two demands—a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death mystery and conversion of her Veda Nilayam into a memorial. Both the demands are now legally struck.
The AIADMK–now led by OPS and EPS as its coordinator and joint coordinator–which won in 2016 with Jayalalithaa’s charisma has once for all put down their “eternal” leader. None of the AIADMK ministers came out to the road to protest when her Poes Garden residence was raided by the Income Tax in 2018. And OPS who demanded a probe into her death did not depose before the Aurmughswamy commission appointed to probe her death mystery. Also, when the Income Tax department informed the court about her properties attached due to non-payment of dues, no minister from the AIADMK came forward to settle them.
Finally, the plans for a memorial for Jayalalithaa have also been legally dashed.