HC to govt.: Drop plan to convert Jaya’s house into a memorial

Judge questions wasteful expenditure at a time of severe shortage of funds

Updated - July 09, 2019 08:25 am IST

Published - July 09, 2019 01:01 am IST - CHENNAI

Veda Nilayam in Poes Gardens.

Veda Nilayam in Poes Gardens.

Justice N. Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court on Monday questioned the necessity of spending a large amount of public money to convert former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence ‘Veda Nilayam’ into a memorial, especially when the State was dependent on loans to execute many public welfare projects.

If the fact that Jayalalithaa resided in that house was sufficient to acquire it for a heavy price and convert it into a memorial, will the government acquire the sprawling Kodanad Estate, where she used to spend most of her time before her death in December 2016, too and convert that also into a memorial, the judge wondered.

“When the State government is struggling for funds, why do you want to spend crores of rupees on a memorial? You cannot spend public money like this. We cannot allow this. You better reconsider your decision. Remember your leader and do some good work. That is sufficient,” he told Additional Advocate General Narmadha Sampath.

The judge made the observations while leading a Division Bench along with Justice Abdul Quddhose.

They were hearing a batch of cases filed by Jayalalithaa’s niece J. Deepa and nephew J. Deepak on the one hand and two All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members K. Pugalenthi and P. Janakiraman on the other to appoint them as administrators of the late Chief Minister’s properties.

Against the move

During the course of hearing, advocates SL Sudarsanam and D. Sai Kumaran, representing Mr. Deepak and Ms. Deepa, stated that they were against the government’s plan to covert ‘Veda Nilayam’ into a memorial.

In fact, more than 100 residents of Poes Garden had given written representations to the government against converting the house into a memorial fearing nuisance, they claimed.

Mr. Sudarsanam told the court that the Poes Garden property was spread over 10 grounds of land which had a 10,000 square feet building on it.

The State government had so far allocated around ₹35 crore for acquiring the entire property though its actual market value would exceed ₹100 crore as the going rate of each ground of land in Poes Garden was about ₹10 crore, he said.

“The government was already constructing a mausoleum for the former Chief Minister at the Marina beach where her mortal remains had been buried. There is no necessity now for converting her residence also into a memorial,” he said. His client was ready to take over the properties and settle all his aunt’s liabilities to various banks as well as the Income Tax Department.

When Justice Kirubakaran wanted to know whether Jayalalithaa was aware of most of her immovable properties, including ‘Veda Nilayam,’ having been attached by the I-T department during her life time, counsel for the Department replied in the affirmative. “The attachment proceedings were initiated only after issuing notices to her and she knew them well,” he told the court.

The judges expressed surprise over her having stayed in a property that was under attachment since 2007. Later, they adjourned the cases for further hearing to July 22 for enabling the appearance of counsel for Mr. Pugalendhi who too had sent a representation to the government objecting to conversion of ‘Veda Nilayam’ into a memorial until the disposal of the cases pending in the High Court.

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