No third party in question; HC may allow Jaya kin to administer assets

Jayalalithaa, Poes Garden, memorial, Veda Nilayam, legal heir, The Federal
As per media report, Jayalalithaa owned agricultural land in Hyderabad worth ₹14.4 crore and in Cheyyur worth ₹34 lakh (PTI File)

The Madras High Court on Friday (August 30) said that there is no question of a third party managing former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s assets when there are her class-II legal heirs to take care of her properties.

While hearing two petitions related to the case, a division bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose questioned the counsels of Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa and nephew Deepak, her class-II legal heirs, about the details of the former chief minister’s properties.

The bench had on August 27 summoned the brother-sister duo to ascertain the pleas filed by them, seeking Letter of Administration (LoA), to manage the properties of Jayalalithaa, including her residence ‘Veda Nilayam’ at Chennai’s Poes Garden.

The court had also asked L Sudarsanam and D Saikumaran, counsels of the petitioners, to ensure that the latter appear before the court.

An LoA is a formal document issued by the court under which a manager is appointed to look after the assets and properties of the deceased.

Of the two petitions being heard by the bench, one was filed by Deepak seeking a Letter of Administration to manage Jayalalithaa’s properties, and his sister Deepa was made a respondent to the case.

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The other petition was filed by the AIADMK’s K Pugazhenthi and P Janakiraman. According to Deepak’s counsel Sudarsanam, Pugazhenthi and Janakiraman want the liabilities and assets of Jayalalithaa to be listed and that the government administer the properties. However, despite their submissions, the court asserted that since there were Class-II legal heirs to the deceased, there was no question of involving a third party.

“All documents related to the hearing and assets have been filed and the consent affidavit was filed by Deepa,” said Sudarsanam. “Today, the court wanted to ascertain whether she had given the affidavit and it was affirmed by her. She said that she and her brother Deepak would like to jointly administer the properties. The income augmented from Jaya’s properties will be used for charitable purposes.”

During the hearing, Justice Kirubakaran asked Deepa that why she can’t let the property be public, quoting Jayalalithaa’s famous lines “Makkalaal naan; Makkalukkaaga naan (I’m of the people, and I’m for the people).”

To this, Deepa replied that she and her brother will use the money from the former CM’s assets to build a trust in her name, and will use it for charitable purposes.

The brother-sister duo further claimed that they were not invited to perform the last rites of the deceased leader and also they were not allowed to enter her residence.

After hearing both the parties, the bench reserved the orders.

The former chief minister’s ‘Veda Nilayam’ residence has been in the news since her death in December 2016. In 2017, the state government had proposed to convert her residence into a memorial and allocated ₹20 crore to acquire it. The residence was thereafter handed over to the Chennai Collector who sealed it before it could be converted into a memorial.

However, in October 18, 2017, Deepa and her brother Deepak had filed a writ petition opposing the government’s proposal to convert the house into a memorial. Deepa had claimed that she and Deepak were the legal heirs to Jayalalithaa’s property.

As per reports, the brother-sister duo within six months of Jayalalithaa’s death had applied for a legal heirship certificate, but had to approach the high court after the Guindy Tahsildar asked them to get a lower court order for the certificate, since they were class-II legal heirs.

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What Jaya owned

The Income Tax department on April 25, 2019, informed the Madras High Court that Jayalalithaa owned assets, both movable and unmovable, worth ₹16.37 crore, as per annual income tax returns filed by her on March 31, 2016. The department pegged her liabilities towards wealth and income taxes at ₹16.74 crore as on December 31, 2018.

Jayalalithaa had also disclosed bank deposits of ₹10.47 crore, jewellery worth ₹12.5 lakh, motor vehicles worth ₹42.25 lakh and ₹15,086 cash. The Poes Garden residence alone was valued at ₹72.1 crore as per the Income Tax reports in 2016.

According to an India Today report, Jayalalithaa owned agricultural land in Hyderabad worth ₹14.4 crore and in Cheyyur worth ₹34 lakh. As for her investments, Jayalalitha claimed to have invested ₹21.5 crore in Shree Jaya Publications, ₹40.4 lakh in Royal Valley Floritech Exports, ₹2.2 crore in Green T Estate, and ₹3.13 crore in Kodanad estate.

Apart from all this, she had 50 per cent share in the profit from Kodanad estate, Royal valley Floritech Exports, Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises.

The department told the court that all the four immovable properties of the former chief minister including her Poes Garden residence and a residential property in Hyderabad, were under attachment since a long time for the recovery of income tax arrears. Veda Nilayam was attached in 2007.

The bench had also asked the Income Tax department to submit details of Jayalalithaa’s assets before the hearing of LoA commenced.