Tamil Nadu government deposits money in court to acquire Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence

Published : July 26, 2020 08:43 IST

Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s residence at Poes Garden, Chennai, a file picture. Photo: R. Ragu

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu has deposited Rs.67.9 crore in a Chennai city civil court to acquire Veda Nilayam, the residence of its late leader and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at Poes Garden in Chennai in the city. The government has plans to convert it into a memorial for her.

By depositing the amount, the State government has decided to co-own the property with the Income Tax Department, which had attached it for non-payment of income and wealth taxes, penalties and resultant arrears by the late leader. It is understood that Rs.36.9 crore of the deposit would be paid to the IT Department to free the property of any encumbrances.

According to the order on July 22 of the Jurisdictional Land Acquisition Officer, Rs. 29.33 crore was paid for 24,322 square feet of land and Rs. 2.73 crore for the constructed area. The Rs.67.9 crore includes the value of trees in the compound.

The State government’s action comes after Jayalalithaa’s legal heirs J. Deepak and J. Deepa, children of her only brother J. Jayakumar, raised objections in court to the government turning Veda Nilayam into a memorial. The Madras High Court had in May declared the siblings as legal heirs. Apparently, Jayalalithaa had not left any will.

Deepa had earlier told the media that she would take the issue to court. “Our legal battle against this arbitrary decision of the State government will continue,” she said.

In fact, a multi-crore architect-designed mega memorial, promoted and constructed by the State government, is nearing completion on the site at Marina beach in Chennai where her mortal remains have been interred.

Second memorial

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced the decision to convert Veda Nilayam into a memorial on August 17, 2017. The State decided to “acquire” the house and land on October 5, 2017. Subsequently, the then Chennai Collector issued a notification to acquire the land and the building. Under Sub-Section (1) 19 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (Central Act 30 of 2013), the notification also said that the project did not involve any displacement and relocation of families.

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit promulgated an ordinance on May 22 this year to “temporarily” take possession of the building to establish the “Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa Memorial Foundation” with the Chief Minister as the chairperson.

On May 27, a two-member bench of Judges N. Kiribakaran and Abdul Quddhose of the Madras High Court, while hearing a batch of petitions on the issue of house acquisition and legal heirs, “suggested” that the government “avoid” converting the residence into a memorial as the public exchequer would incur huge expenses. The court said public money could not be wasted on constructing memorials when so many essential amenities were yet to be provided to the people.

The government, however, went ahead with the move to make Veda Nilayam a second memorial for Jayalalithaa, which was seen as a political move. But it did not find popular support. “When there is a memorial coming up for her at Marina, what is the necessity to pay huge sums to ‘possess her property by paying her IT department dues’ for another memorial, also in the city,” asked a social activist. A few activists had even approached the court against the move.

The court also asked the State “to issue notice to the legal heirs and hear them during acquisition proceedings”. But it is not clear whether the State has done so. The court also further clarified that the heirs were “entitled to grant of Letters of Administration in respect of the estate and credits of the late Chief Minister Dr.J Jayalalithaa”.