Tamil Nadu

Proceedings to buy Jaya’s residence quashed

The acquisition of Veda Nilayam will serve no public purpose, said the judge.  

The Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the proceedings initiated by the previous AIADMK Government to acquire former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s bungalow, Veda Nilayam, at Poes Garden in Chennai for converting it into a memorial. It observed that India of today is not a land of pharaohs or emperors to erect monuments to immortalise the dead.

Justice N. Seshasayee wrote, “India of today is not the Raj of the yesteryear for its administrators to bask in a fallacy that the wealth of the State is the wealth of the ruler. No, it is the wealth of the ruled — the People. It is time that the governments get accustomed to this constitutional reality.” He said the acquisition would serve no public purpose.

He delivered the verdict while allowing the petitions filed by Jayalalithaa’s nephew J. Deepak and niece J. Deepa through their counsel S.L. Sudarsanam and K.V. Sundararajan. The judge concurred with the State that it was empowered to acquire private property for any purpose of its choice but stressed that such a purpose should be useful to the public.

Posing a question whether acquisition for a memorial would involve a public purpose, he said: “The answer can be a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’. Generically it can be, but individually it need not be.” He said the need for a memorial could not be dictated by professional achievements, political populism, an image carefully groomed by cultivated charisma and electoral victories.

Referring to the State having relied on a 1969 Supreme Court judgment related to a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad, he asked: “By relying upon this verdict, has not the Government acknowledged that the benchmark for establishing a memorial with public money can be justified only if the life and contribution of the person for whom the memorial is proposed approximates the life of Gandhiji and those of his ilk?”

He went on to state: “In contemporary times, where there is a perceptible depreciation of ethical standards and corrosion of moral values which cumulatively leave their adverse impact on the constitutional responsibility and institutional integrity, there may not be too many leaders who may match the standards of those who gave their lives for the cause of the nation or the humankind.”

He said, “In other words, if the life of a leader has only a relative value to some and not to the substantial number, then there is a risk of its becoming a memorial for a group of followers, and not the public, and may well fail in a judicial review of an alleged colourable action of the Executive.”

He also took judicial note that the State had already constructed a phoenix-shaped mausoleum for Jayalalithaa at the Marina Beach by spending ₹80 crore in public money. “Veda Nilayam is only a few kilometres away from the phonenix memorial... What is the inspirational story that Veda Nilayam may provide which the Marina memorial does not?” the judge wondered.

Justice Seshasayee said that in a country where a substantial number of its populace were struggling for a dignified life, and for whom Part III (fundamental rights) and Part IV (directive principles of State policy) of the Constitution were yet to become relevant, the court could not remain insensitive and play Dhridarashtra (the visually challenged king in the Mahabharata) when the government decides to divert crores of rupees of public money mindlessly.

“Fiscal prudence is the soul of fiscal management and is in-built in the governance of public affairs. As a prudent manager of public funds, it is the duty of the government to deploy public money where the investment fetches tangible returns to the public at large. It includes welfare measures for the public such as health, education, housing, transportation, and the list is endless,” the judge opined.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 4:57:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/proceedings-to-buy-jayas-residence-quashed/article37674526.ece

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