Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew declared legal heirs, can claim her properties

The Madras High Court also suggested that Jayalalithaa’s Veda Nilayam residence not be made into a memorial and instead be used as the official residence cum office of the Chief Minister.
Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew declared legal heirs, can claim her properties
Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew declared legal heirs, can claim her properties

In a huge setback to the AIADMK government's efforts to convert former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam residence in Chennai into a memorial, the Madras High Court has pronounced her nephew J Deepak and niece J Deepa as her legal heirs. The court has classified them as Class II legal heirs which means that they can claim rights over their aunt’s properties, as per the Hindu Succession Act 1956, as there are no Class I or direct heirs.

As per the Division Bench order on Wednesday, the Tamil Nadu government should issue notice to the legal heirs and hear them out during the acquisition proceedings. Moreover, the compensation payable for acquiring the properties or in this case Veda Nilayam in Poes garden should be determined and said amount should be paid to both J Deepa and J Deepak who are the late CM's niece and nephew.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court was hearing an appeal filed by AIADMK members K Pughazhenthi and P Janakiraman challenging a single judge’s order of the same court. The two had sought the court to grant Letters of Administration without Will for Administration of properties and credits belonging to Jayalalithaa as she had no legal heir at the time of her death.

While the bench consisting of Justices N Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose upheld the 2018 judgement of the single judge bench rejecting the petition of the AIADMK members, it also stated that, “The second and third respondents (Deepak and Deepa) have already been declared as Class II legal heirs of Late Chief Minister Dr.J Jayalalithaa...This Court in O.P.No.630 of 2018 analyzed in detail as to how the second and third respondents are declared as Class II legal heirs of Late Chief Minister Dr.J Jayalalithaa and they are entitled to Letters of Administration of the properties.”

The High Court however suggested that the property which is 10 grounds not be made into a memorial. The court stated that instead of paying heavy compensation, the money could be used for developmental work such as - building infrastructures, providing potable drinking water and cleaning of water bodies.

“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,” said the bench. “If the Government intends to make the residence of the Late Chief Minister's as a memorial, there will not be any end for such proposals. Every Government would like to make the residence of their leaders who were chief minister's as memorials and unnecessarily, the public money would be utilized for setting up memorials alone,” it warned.

The court further suggested that the state government consider making the Poes Garden property the “Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State” instead of converting it into a memorial. The bench pointed out that it had the necessary infrastructure to serve as the official residence of a Chief Minister. But if the state government was bent upon creating a memorial, it offered another alternative.

“ If the State Government is particular that the property should be made as a memorial, instead of making the entire property as “memorial,” the Government may consider making use of a portion of the property to set up memorial and the rest of the property as ‘Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State’ so that the property could be put to better use,” said the bench.

The bench stated that the state government should consider the suggestion that Veda Nilayam be made as “Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State”, after acquiring the property as per law which involves issuing notice and hearing objections from J.Deepa and J.Deepak.

The court also suggested that Deepa and Deepak could liquidate any one of the properties of the deceased Chief Minister and deposit the amount in a fixed deposit in any one of the nationalised banks. The court has directed them to use this money to pay for security that the state government has been ordered to provide.

The court states that they will require security as they have now been declared legal heirs of assets worth over Rs.1000 crore.

Over the last two months, the Tamil Nadu had accelerated the process to convert Veda Nilayam into a memorial. On May 22,  Governor Banwarilal Purohit promulgated an ordinance to help the state government take temporary possession of Veda Nilayam. They could also take control of movable items to convert the house into a memorial. The Governor further allowed for the establishment of the 'Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa Memorial Foundation' for making long term arrangements for the process of conversion.

Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Information and Publicity Minister Kadambur Raju and government officials including members and director of Information and Public relations were to head this foundation. The reason given was that several movable items in the residence were in a state of disuse and the government was made responsible for the upkeep.

On May 6, the acquisition of the property was deemed necessary for a 'public purpose' by Chennai Collector R Seethalakshmi.  The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency was invoked and no compensation was announced in this case are there no 'Project affected persons'.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had announced the conversion of Veda Nilayam into a memorial in August 2017, as it was a key condition for the merger with the O Panneerselvam faction. 


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