'Veda Nilayam', Jayalalithaa’s house in Chennai, declared open as a memorial after go-ahead from High Court, but it will remain closed to the public

Published : January 28, 2021 12:25 IST

Veda Nilayam, Jayalalithaa’s residence at Poes Garden in Chennai. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami inaugurated it as a memorial on January 28, but it will not be open to the public until the Madras High Court decides on the petitions filed by Jayalalithaa’s legal heirs on their claims to the property. Photo: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B.

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami declared open the Veda Nilayam residence of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as a memorial, riding on a January 27 late evening order of the Madras High Court even as another case relating to the ownership of the property remains in the court.

The Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, and other senior leaders lighted a traditional lamp early on January 28, marking the opening of the residence as a memorial. The Chief Minister declared that all legal issues will be sorted out and the house will be opened for public viewing. The AIADMK’s official Twitter handle announced the opening. Another tweet from the same handle said the Tamil Nadu Cabinet would meet on January 29.

In his order on January 27, Justice N. Seshasayee acknowledged Deepak and Deepa as Jayalalithaa’s legal heirs, and pointed out that they had “preferred separate writ petitions challenging the notification for acquisition” of Jayalalithaa’s house. “Even as these petitions are pending hearing, the Government of Tamil Nadu has notified its intent to declare open… the residence as a memorial,” the judge said and added that he was “keeping aside the consideration of the main controversy” and treating the writ on opening the House as a memorial alone.

Noting that “in the fitness of things, when… matters are pending, the government should have refrained from opening the memorial,” the order said that the Advocate General informed the court that “arrangements for holding the function has been made, and any stay of the function might create considerable difficulties for the government”.

Hence, the court ordered that the ceremony to open a memorial could go ahead, but the building should not be open to public. It said that this “will not in any way confer any right on the government nor deprive the petitioners of their right in the subject matter of the writ petitions [contesting the government acquisition].” It also ordered that the building, ‘Veda Nilayam’, should not be opened at any time, even during the function since “taking the inventory of the movables and their valuation is not yet complete. The right, title and the interest of the heirs of the late Chief Minister cannot be marginalised.” The court directed that the keys to the House should be handed over to the Registrar after the function. He posted the final hearing for February 24.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court had earlier declared that Deepa and Deepak were the Class-II legal heirs to Jayalalithaa. The Division Bench had also ordered that the government should consult the legal heirs on the issue of converting ‘Veda Nilayam’ into a memorial, and, if they were in agreement, offer them compensation. It also ordered the Class-II legal heirs to pay the dues to the Income Tax department after selling a part of the property.

Following this, the State government enacted a law and issued an order (G.O. Ms. No. 180 – dated October 5, 2017) to take over the property and deposited Rs.68 crore as compensation in the Madras High Court (including Rs.31 crore towards IT dues). Subsequently Deepa and Deepak challenged the acquisition.

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