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Bench upholds single judge order against acquisition of Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam
A division bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed the third party appeals from the AIADMK challenging the ruling of a single judge, quashing all orders passed to convert late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam residence here to convert it into a memorial for her.
There were a lot of procedural irregularities in the process, starting from acquiring the property and converting it into a memorial, a division bench of Justices Paresh Upadhyay and Sathi Kumar Sukumara Kurup said.
In November last year, Justice N Seshasayee had set aside all the orders of the previous AIADMK government which culminated in the take over and conversion of the late CM's residence, located at the posh Poes Garden locality in the city.
The bench also endorsed the view of the single judge there was no need for a second memorial for the late leader and that there was no public interest involved in the same.
The appeals sought to quash the orders of the single judge, after expunging all the remarks made by him. The memorial was formally declared open in January 2021.
By his orders dated November 24, Justice Seshasayee had quashed all the orders passed by the then AIADMK government from 2017 which ultimately culminated in the taking over of the property in 2020. He had also observed there was no need for a second memorial in addition to the one on the Marina Beach. This would be a mere waste of public money. No public interest would also be serviced, he had said.
The present (DMK) government cannot be forced to continue with the acquisition, as it had accepted the orders of the single judge and handed over the keys of the sprawling property to Jayalalithaa's niece J Deepa and nephew J Deepak, the bench said while dismissing the appeal by the AIADMK Villupuram district secretary C Ve Shanmugam, who was the Law Minister in the previous regime.
The bench also noted that though the acquisition was of one private residential property, the opposition by the owners of the said property -- Deepa and Deepak, was not even acknowledged, much less properly considered by the authorities of then `appropriate' government, which in the present case was the State government.
The State did not even accept the status of the writ petitioners to be the owners of the said property. Whether the writ petitioners were/are owners of the property in question or not, is not the point at issue before this court now, since they were already held to be the owners of the property in question and that status had attained finality. At this stage, reference needs to be made to the decisions of a division bench of this Court taken in May, 2020, which had held the duo as the legal heir of Jayalalithaa, the bench said.
With regard to procedural irregularities in the acquisition in question, specific reference needs to be made to the findings recorded by the single judge holding that there was breach of the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013' (RFCTLARR Act) and Rules made thereunder.
"For the above reasons, we are in agreement with the finding recorded in the impugned judgement that the acquisition in question was procedurally illegal and we confirm the said part of the judgment," the bench said.
"If the acquisition in question is examined, keeping in view the 'objects and reasons' and the definition of the 'public purpose' in the Act of 2013, in the facts of this case, we are unable to bring the acquisition of the property in question within the four corners of 'public purpose' envisaged under Section 3 (za) of the Act of 2013 read with any of the clauses under sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the said Act," the bench added.
The judges also noted that the appellants AIADMK and Shanmugam did not make any attempt to implead themselves as parties in the original petitions when they were heard by the single judge.
When asked as to why they have approached this court now after the judgement was pronounced in the writ petitions, they replied there was no occasion for AIADMK or any of its functionaries to approach this court earlier since the government was pursuing the matter properly at the relevant time but now when the government has decided not to file appeal against the judgement and order of the single judge, AIADMK and one of its functionaries have decided to challenge the same.
"This stand indicates that, at the relevant time AIADMK misconstrued itself as 'appropriate government' which it was not. Further, this stand would reduce the status of AIADMK akin to 'Requiring Body' as defined under Section 3(zb) of the Act of 2013 qua the acquisition in question. The AIADMK which led the government at the relevant time, desired to acquire 'Veda Nilayam' for being converted into a memorial in her name. The power to do so was vested in the 'appropriate government' as defined under section 3(e)(i) of the RFCTLARR Act of 2013. Since the AIADMK required the said property being acquired, for being converted into a memorial in the name of its leader Jayalalithaa, the government led by that party exercised its powers as an 'appropriate government' under the RFCTLARR Act of 2013."
"This would also lead to a situation where the first appellant, which is a political party, which by the very stand it has taken had reduced itself to the status akin to that of the 'requiring body' as defined under Section 3(zb) of the Act is heard contending that 'public purpose' as defined under Section 3(za) read with section 2(1) of the RFCTLARR Act of 2013 would be served by acquiring a private residential property for being converted into a memorial, against the wish of the owners thereof, that too when the 'appropriate government' under the Act is not willing to do so. According to us, it would be neither legal nor proper to give any such direction," the bench said.
The points at issue having been answered as above, in the facts of the case, according to us, other arguments pressed into service on behalf of the appellants would not take their case any further, the bench noted.