Jayalalithaa’s legal heirs get Poes Garden bungalow

The legal heirs would have to settle the Rs 37.54 crore income tax dues of Jayalalithaa

Chennai: The keys of Veda Nilayam, former chief minister J Jayalalaithaa’s iconic house in Poes Garden, were handed over to J Deepa and J Deepak, Jayalalaithaa’s niece and nephew, by the Chennai district Collector J Vijaya Rani on Friday following the Madras High Court ruling to that effect.

Entering the sprawling 24,322 square feet bungalow, after a government official opened the doors for the legal heirs of the property that was sought to be converted into a memorial by the earlier AIADMK government, Deepa turned nostalgic and told media persons that she was born in that house.

For her it was always her aunt’s house and not the Chief Minister’s residence, said Deepa, who even went upstairs to stand on the famous balcony in the house from where Jayalalaithaa had greeted her followers several times, providing historic pictures of the moment.

Bought by Jayalaltihaa’s mother and Deepa’s grandmother, Sandhya, in 1967 a few years after Jayalalithaa took to acting in films, Veda Nilayam has been the permanent residence of Jayalalithaa till she took ill seriously and was shifted to the Apollo Hospitals on the night of September 22, 2016.

After Jayalalithaa’s passing on December 5, 2016, her close friend V K Sasikala, who had also been residing in the house along with some of her relatives for many years, continued to live there and was also meeting party cadre and others from there even as she was preparing to take over as Chief Minister.

The historically significant house, where Jayalallthaa had met several to leaders as Chief Minister and also as leader of the AIADMK and taken landmark decisions, is treated as a ‘temple’ by her ardent followers who would throng the streets of the posh locality every time something eventful happened, say like she being exonerated in a court case.

The house, during the heydays of Jayalalithaa, was also bustling with her own staff, personal security personnel, Ministers and others calling on her for various reasons though media persons were allowed to go pass the wrought iron gates only for select occasions.

The AIADMK government, under Edappadi K Palaniswami, after making an announcement on its plan sought to take over the property and convert it into a memorial to perpetuate Jayalalithaa’s memory in August 2017, brought in an ordinance to take possession.

Sasikala and her sister-in-law J Ilavarasi, also a resident of the same bungalow, were then serving their term in the Parappana Agrahara jail in Bengaluru when the property was taken over by the government, which subsequently brought in a legislation, and was even declared it as a memorial.

Justice N Seshasayee of the Madras High Court quashed the legislation on November 24, saying ‘Is it not one memorial too many. What is the inspirational story that Veda Nilayam may provide which the Marina memorial does not.’

He was passing the orders on the petition filed by Deepa and Deepak, children of Jayalalithaa’s lone brother the late J Jayakumar, staking their claim as the only legal heirs.

Since the Government was ordered to handover the property to the legal heirs, who filed separate petitions to take possession, they were given the keys on Friday. However, the legal heirs would have to settle the Rs 37.54 crore income tax dues of Jayalalithaa.

The court also ordered the return of the Rs 67.9 crore compensation paid by the government to take over the property.

Soon after the order was passed by the court, an AIADMK leader had filed an appeal against it. The party, under the leaders of O Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, is keen on converting the house into a memorial and was expecting the State government to go on an appeal against the order, too.

Though the court gave three weeks time for handing over the property to Deepa and Deepak, the Collector had given away the keys ahead of the deadline, which has turned into a matter of pique for AIADMK leaders.

It is said that the AIADMK leaders were keen on making it a memorial because they did not want Sasikala to take possession of it. Though it has now been handed over to the legal heir, the leaders fear that Sasikala might be able to buy it from them and then hold court there, pretending to be Jayalalithaa’s political heir, perhaps even waving at supporters from the balcony.

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