Acquisition of Jaya’s residence is in public interest, govt. tells HC

‘Converting leaders’ residence into memorial a world-wide practice’

The State government has stoutly denied the charge of absence of any public interest in acquiring former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s residence Veda Nilayam at Poes Garden, Chennai, for the purpose of converting it into a memorial.

In a counter affidavit to a case filed by her legal heir and niece J. Deepa, the Acquisition Officer N. Lakshmi said conversion of residences of popular leaders into government memorials was a world-wide practice and not a new phenomenon.

“Apart from being a beacon of inspiration to residents of Tamil Nadu, the proposed memorial at Veda Nilayam will also serve as a tourist attraction. Therefore, the acquisition should be considered as falling within the meaning of public purpose,” she said.

The officer also relied upon a couple of Supreme Court verdicts to claim that the definition of the term ‘public purpose’ was extensive in nature and as such an enlarged meaning or interpretation should be employed while determining it.

Accusing Ms. Deepa of trying to espouse her private interest in the property over public interest, the Acquisition Officer urged the court to dismiss her writ petition challenging the award of ₹67.90 crore deposited with the City Civil Court in Chennai.

Further, answering the petitioner’s other allegation that the property had been undervalued, the officer said the guideline value of ₹12,060 per sq.ft was adopted to determine the compensation since “the price of similar type of land situated in the nearest vicinity was not available.”

Ms. Lakshmi added: “The petitioner is blowing hot and cold at the same time by seeming to oppose the acquisition but at the same time seeking for enhanced compensation. The grounds raised by the writ petitioner are untenable.”

Though the acquisition proceedings had commenced in October 2017 much before the petitioner and her brother J. Deepak were declared as the legal heirs by the High Court in May 2020, the officer said there was no necessity to redo the entire exercise from scratch.

Pointing out that public notices were issued at every stage of the proceedings and that a public hearing was also conducted on January 2, 2019, the officer said Mr. Deepak too had submitted his objections but they were rejected by the Collector on January 22, 2020.

After the siblings were declared as the legal heirs, notices were issued to them under Section 21(1) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 to make claims for compensation.

Ms. Deepa’s husband K. Madhavan, Mr. Deepak’s counsel S.L. Sudarsanam and Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax Ajay Robin Singh appeared for inquiry before the Acquisition Officer on July 3, 2020 and it was claimed by the latter that Jayalalithaa had income tax dues.

Since there were conflicting claims and the siblings had only insisted on conducting the acquisition proceedings afresh instead of seeking apportionment of the compensation amount, the issue was referred to the City Civil Court and the compensation was also deposited over there on July 22.

Since then, “the property vests with the Government free from all encumbrances,” the Acquisition Officer claimed.

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