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Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam turns memorial, but not open to public

It was was thrown open as a memorial by AIADMK-led govt on Thursday

24-Poes-Garden Veda Nilayam (file photo) | J. Suresh

Veda Nilayam, 36 Poes Garden, one of the most popular addresses in Chennai, that was a silent witness to the many ups and downs in Tamil Nadu’s politics for over three decades, is now a memorial. The 50-year-old Veda Nilayam, former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa's swanky bungalow, was thrown open as a memorial by the AIADMK-led government on Thursday. However, the black iron gates, as usual, was not wide open for visitors.

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his cabinet colleagues entered Veda Nilayam through a small partitioned gate to unveil it as a memorial by lighting a traditional lamp. Members of the general public were not allowed at the function following the directions from the Madras High Court.

The Madras High Court had, on Wednesday, said the keys of the entire premises should be handed over to its Registrar General after the ceremony.

The former chief minister’s chamber of secrets, which wielded an aura of power until September 2016, is now caught in a litany of woes owing to a legal dispute between her relatives and the ruling AIADMK government. The legal battle for the palatial bungalow, spread over 24,322sqft, had turned murkier since May 2020, after the Madras High Court declared Jayalalithaa's nephew Deepak and niece Deepa as her legal heirs.

Deepa and Deepak filed separate petitions, challenging the government notification for acquisition of Veda Nilayam to convert it into a memorial. In an order passed on Wednesday, Justice N. Seshasayee said the "challenge involved is not only the correctness or the legality of acquisition of the immovable property in Veda Nilayam but to the incomplete process of the acquisition of the movables also. It may not be appropriate for the government to present the court with a fait accompoli and to rush to declare open a memorial when the owners thereof are clueless to the actual value of the movables that they are entitled to in law."

The court came down heavily on the state government saying it is "unfair" and "impermissible" for the government to declare open a memorial when the movable and immovable properties in Veda Nilayam is not valued and "when the entire acquisition proceedings is not yet complete."

However, Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the court that arrangements for holding the function had been made and a stay on the function might create considerable difficulties for the government, and hence the court allowed the ceremony.

Earlier, in July 2020, the government had deposited Rs. 67.9 crore in a city civil court to take possession of the bungalow. The amount was deposited for paying compensation to her legal heirs—Deepa Jayakumar and J. Deepak and also the Income Tax department, which stands pending in the court.

Politically, Palaniswami, who wants to position himself as the face of AIADMK, made the move to inherit Jayalalithaa's legacy. On Thursday he went a step ahead, passing orders to celebrate Jayalalithaa's birthday as a government function. 

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