The Madras High Court on Wednesday handed over the palatial Poes Garden bungalow owned by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa to her elder brother’s children after striking down an order passed by the previous AIADMK government to acquire the property and convert it into a memorial for her.
The order is a setback to former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his then deputy O Panneerselvam who issued the orders to acquire the residence against the wishes of Deepa and Deepak and converted it into a memorial.
Though the memorial was inaugurated in January, it was not thrown open to public due to a court order.
Justice N Seshasayee passed the order on petitions filed by J Deepa and J Deepak daughter and son of Jayalalithaa’s only brother Jayakumar challenging the acquisition of Veda Nilayam, the bungalow where Jayalalithaa lived for the most part of her life, in upscale Poes Garden in this city.
Quashing the acquisition of the bungalow which was converted into a memorial just months before the AIADMK lost power in the 2021 assembly elections, the judge also directed the Chennai district collector to hand over the keys of the bungalow to Deepa and Deepak within three weeks of receiving the order.
“When the acquisition goes, the award passed by the Land Acquisition Authority goes with it.
Consequently, the status quo ante has to be restored,” Justice Seshasayee said in a detailed order that runs into 123 pages.
The judge also questioned the government’s contention that the acquisition was done in “public interest.”
Justice Seshasayee also allowed the Income Tax Department to proceed for recovering any arrears of tax payable by Jayalalithaa which is chargeable on her bungalow as per law.
While Deepa welcomed the verdict saying it established the law, Deepak was not reachable for his comments.
Though Jayalalithaa did not leave a will, the Madras High Court had in May 2020 declared the sister-brother duo as her legal heirs.
Even after Jayalalithaa’s death, her long-time aide V K Sasikala was staying at the bungalow till her four-year prison term in a disproportionate assets (DA) case was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Justice Seshasayee also questioned the need for a second memorial in honour of Jayalalithaa pointing to her memorial built at her resting place in Marina Beach at a cost of over Rs 80 crore.
Sandya’s grand daughter Deepa and grandSon Deepak are legal heir of property ruled High Court
He also said the compensation amount which the ADMK Government has deposited for 68 Crores Rupees in the court with accrued interest will be returned back to the Tamilnadu government.
“The District Collector, Chennai, in whose custody the keys of ‘Veda Nilayam’ is, is directed to hand them over to the petitioners within a period of three weeks from the date of the receipt of copy of the order, which includes a Web copy of the Order,” the judge said.
The sprawling mansion in upscale Poes Garden was where Jayalalithaa resided for nearly 50 years after her mother, Sandhya, bought the bungalow in the late 1960s.
The bungalow, whose market value is nearly Rs 100 crore as on date, was purchased by Jayalalithaa’s mother Sandhya for a mere Rs 1.32 lakh in 1967.
Sandhya a actress by profession bought the front portion of the mansion in the 1960s, but Jayalalithaa expanded the bungalow by acquiring near-by properties.
For Jayalalithaa, the Poes Garden residence was more than a home. After her mysterious death in 2016, the Tamil Nadu government had in 2017 announced that the Poes Garden bungalow will be converted into a memorial for Jayalalithaa.
A trip to Poes Garden residence was nothing short of a pilgrimage to lakhs of AIADMK cadre when Jayalalithaa, who nurtured the party founded by her mentor M G Ramachandran, was alive.