T.N. government continues process to make Jayalalithaa’s house a memorial

Published : May 06, 2020 18:40 IST

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's residence at Poes Garden in Chennai. A file picture. Photo: R. Ragu

The strong criticism of its handling of the coronavirus crisis has not stopped the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu from pursuing its planto convert the Chennai Poes Garden residence of their leader Jayalalithaa into a memorial.

A dispute on the legal possession of the late Chief Minister’s house reached the Madras High Court in 2018 and multiple hearings have been held since then. Even so, the government recently issued its third and last declaration notification, a legal requirement for acquisition, in the media, in which it announced that “the acquisition of lands mentioned in the schedule below are needed for the public purpose that is to convert the land and buildings of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Selvi J. Jayalalithaa (late) ‘Veda Illam’ at Poes Garden as government memorial.”

The declaration notification from the Chennai Collector, issued under Sub-Section (1) of 19 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (Central Act 30 of 2013), further clarifies that the project does not involve any displacement and relocation of families. It says: “There are no Project Affected Families and hence no question of relocation, resettlement and rehabilitation. The plan of the land under acquisition kept in the Office of the Land Acquisition Officer/ Revenue Divisional Officer, South Chennai Revenue Division, Guindy, Chennai 32 and may be inspected at any time during office hours.”

The schedule in the notification says that the area to be acquired would be Sq mtrs with a three-storey building. It says that Jayalalithaa was the registered holder of the property. Interestingly, it also says that legal heir is to be ascertained suggesting that the State is yet to take possession of the property, which is mired in legal entanglement. The government is also simultaneously erecting a massive memorial at Marina Beach where the leader’s mortal remains were interred after her death in 2018.

Jayalalithaa’s nephew and niece, Deepak and Deepa respectively, objected to the memorial plan and claimed that they were the legal and blood-related heirs to Jayalalithaa, their aunt, and that the property belonged to them. They went to the Madras High Court against the acquisition saying that they were entitled to inherit the Poes Garden residence and other properties, many of which had either been confiscated or attached by various government agencies following Jayalalthaa’s conviction in the disproportionate wealth case. It is believed that Jayalalithaa has not left any will.

A public interest litigation (PIL) petition was also filed by the activist ‘Traffic’ K.R. Ramasamy against conversion of the house into a memorial. Reports in the media claimed that the Poes Garden residence had been attached by the Income Tax Department for non-payment of dues though the State government had expressed its willingness to pay the sum. The State has found no valid reason to object to the conversion of her house into a memorial.

A senior bureaucrat told Frontline that the government had converted the residences of 13 prominent leaders as memorials so far. “If we receive the judgments in our favour, the government would go ahead with the acquisition immediately. The building will be retained as it is with minor modifications, if any. Funds have been already earmarked for the same,” he said.