Jayalalithaa’s residence Veda Nilayam house won’t be turned into a memorial, rules Madras HC
The Madras High Court on Wednesday set aside all the orders of the previous AIADMK Government led by E Palaniswami (EPS) to convert former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa‘s residence Veda Nilayam at Poes Garden to convert it into a memorial for her. The controversial decision by the EPS Government was with a motive to grab control of late Jayalalithaa’s home from Sasikala and family. Justice N Seshasayee, who passed the orders, also posed some questions to the Government for overspending of public money and criticized the then government for taking over private land for a memorial, when one existed on the Marina beach, and for lapses in observing the procedure. It is a wastage of public money, the judge held in his 123-page order.
The Court quashed the orders while allowing a batch of three writ petitions and about 15 miscellaneous petitions with various related prayers filed by J Deepa and J Deepak, the niece and nephew, respectively, of the late AIADMK supremo. The compensation amount, which the State Government had deposited in a lower court pursuant to the award, is liable to be returned with all accrued interest to the government, the Judge said.
The judge said that the Income Tax Department is free to proceed for recovering any arrears of tax payable by Jayalalithaa which is chargeable on her estate, as per law. Differentiating the memorial on the Marina beach, Justice N Seshasayee pointed out it does not involve any acquisition and noted that Veda Nilayam is only a few kilometers away from the Marina.
“Is it not one memorial too many? What is the inspirational story that ‘Veda Nilayam’ may provide which the Marina memorial does not?. What then is the public purpose in acquiring a private residence of the former chief minister?. Beyond the smokescreen of ‘policy decision‘ and the Government’s prerogative to attribute ‘public purpose’, this Court is still searching for an answer.”
“And the fact that the notification for acquisition has been published a couple of years before the Court had cleared the construction of the Marina memorial for the former chief minister is immaterial, for what ultimately matters to this Court is defraying public money on a second memorial for the same CM,” the judge added.
“In the final analysis, this Court is left with little option than to hold that acquisition of Veda Nilayam cannot be said to involve a ‘public purpose’ in law. The acquisition fails. The fact that an award has been passed is of no consequence. And the fact that a formal inauguration of Veda Nilayam – the Memorial on January 28 this year is equally of no consequence,” the judge said.
Veda Nilayamas was bought by Jayalalithaa’s mother in the late 1960s and was home to the late Chief Minister for over three decades, where several leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had called on her. On August 17, 2017, then Chief Minister E Palaniswami who had distanced from Jayalalithaa’s trusted friend Sasikala had announced that Veda Nilayam would be converted into a memorial and opened to the public in remembrance of her achievements and service to the people. The Tamil Nadu Assembly had in September 2020 adopted a Bill to replace an ordinance issued for possession of the house and to facilitate vesting of movable properties therein with the government.
In January this year, Veda Nilayam, converted into a memorial, was declared open by Palaniswami.
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