A battle of close to three years has ended in triumph, at least for now, for J Deepa, the niece of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The founder of MGR Amma Deepa Peravai, who was restricted from even entering Veda Nilayam, the official residence of her aunt in June 2017, has today been declared by the Madras High Court as a legal heir of all of Jayalalithaa's assets along with her brother J Deepak.
And in her first interview after the court's verdict, Deepa told TNM that the Poes Gardens residence will not be turned into a memorial. "I have opposed this effort from 2017 and made my objection very clear. Veda Nilayam will stay within our family," she told TNM.
Deepa points out that the division bench itself has labelled the memorial for Jayalalithaa as unnecessary and a waste of public money. But while the court suggested that as an alternative, a portion of the residence can be turned into a memorial and the rest of it into the official residence of Chief Ministers to come, Deepa is against it.
"Today the AIADMK may be in power and want to have an office there, but they are not going to stay in the government forever. What is the guarantee that the next Chief Minister will work from there?" she asks. "So, we (the family) are definitely going to want possession of the building," she adds.
As per the Madras High Court order, properties and other immovable assets of the former Chief Minister account to over Rs. 884 crores. The former AIADMK chief's total assets as per her 2016 election affidavit is only pegged at Rs. 117.13. However the court stated that as per documents submitted by appellants the value of her assets will be over Rs.1000 crore.
Terming the judgement given by the division bench of the Madras High Court as 'excellent', Deepa also tore into the AIADMK government, terming their move to acquire the property as political and an effort to discredit her family. The government acquired Veda Nilayam on May 6 despite a case over the inheritance of the property still being underway in the Madras High Court. Chennai Collector R Seethalakshmi issued a declaration that the acquisition of the property that served as Jayalalithaa's residence for 40 years, is needed for a 'public purpose'. The state further claimed that there was nobody to compensate for this acquisition as there were no 'Project affected persons'.
"This AIADMK government was elected to power because of my aunt but they showed no respect to our family. They should have respectfully spoken to us, sat across the table and held a discussion. But instead they used their power to suppress us, show their might and establish that we had no say in our aunt's properties," she alleges.
"We understand that they worshipped her but taking over the property like this is not the right thing for a government to do. Now they have to follow the rule of law and not acquire land as they wish. This is a fight for not just us, but all common people who are being treated unfairly."
When asked about how her brother Deepak has responded to the verdict, Deepa says she is yet to talk to him.
"He was at the forefront of this fight and put in a lot of effort. I have also supported him," she says. "I'm sure he is pleased with the verdict."