The Madras high court on Wednesday asked the Tamil Nadu government to reconsider its decision to convert late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's residence in Chennai into a memorial and declared her niece and nephew as the legal heirs of her property worth several crores.
A division bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose also suggested that Veda Nilayam, located in the upmarket Poes Garden area, be converted into the official residence of the chief minister of the state, while a portion of the property can be a memorial if needed.
The court order came days after Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit promulgated an ordinance to allow the state government take temporary possession of Veda Nilayam and set up a foundation under Chief Minister K Palaniswami for the purpose of converting it into a memorial.
Allowing the petition by Jayalalithaa's nephew and niece -- Deepak and Deepa, respectively -- seeking letters of administration to administer her properties, the bench said, "Deepak and Deepa are second class legal heirs of the late CM, being the son and daughter of her late brother Jayakumar."
It also made it clear that the duo was entitled for administration in respect of the estate held individually by the late Jayalalithaa or in the names of firms or companies and the credits of the former AIADMK supremo.
Deepak and Deepa shall allot a few properties according to their discretion and create a registered public trust in the name of their late aunt for the purpose of doing social service within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of the order copy.
The court then posted the matter for reporting compliance with regard to creation of a trust after eight weeks.
The bench dismissed another plea moved by AIADMK cadre K Pugalenthi seeking to appoint him as administrator of the properties of the late chief minister.
In August last, the court, while reserving its orders on Deepak and Deepa’s plea, had sought to know why a portion of Jayalalithaa's properties should not be allotted for welfare of the public, as she was a leader who always said she was made by the people and worked for the people.
The petitioners submitted they had no objection in doing so, since it was their aunt's wish.
"But as the only legal heirs of Jayalalithaa, we are entitled to all her properties. We have plans to establish a trust in her name and do charity to the people through it," they stated in the petition.
According to the petitioners, they had approached the jurisdictional tahsildar on August 16, 2017, urging the issuance of legal heir certificates in their favour to inherit the properties of Jayalalithaa, who died on December 5, 2016.
But through a reply dated September 22, 2017, the official refused to issue the certificates and directed them to obtain it by approaching the appropriate civil court.
On May 22, the governor had promulgated an ordinance to temporarily take possession of Veda Nilayam.
The order said the ordinance was also meant to establish the Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa Memorial Foundation for making long-term arrangements to convert Veda Nilayam into a memorial.
The government had said the ordinance was promulgated since "the building of Veda Nilayam, including the movable items such as furniture, books, jewels, etc. are in a state of disuse for more than three years."
So the government decided to transfer all the immovable and movable properties to the government for its upkeep until the acquisition process is complete, it had said.
The government, while formally commencing the process of acquiring the sprawling three-storeyed residence early this month, had said that the legal heir for the building was yet to be ascertained.
Fondly addressed as 'Amma', meaning mother in Tamil, by her supporters, Jayalalithaa died in December 2016 after undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospitals for 75 days.