The Madras High Court on Wednesday declared that J. Deepak and J. Deepa, nephew and niece respectively of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa, as her legal heirs are hence entitled to administer the estate left behind by her.
"As late Chief Minister Dr. J Jayalalithaa died unmarried, without any issues and no other kith or kin is available other than the petitioner and the respondent, who are children of late Jayakumar, brother of the deceased, this Court is convinced that the petitioner and the respondent are nephew and niece and are Class II legal heirs. Hence, they are entitled to grant of Letters of Administration in respect of the estate and credits of the late Chief Minister Dr. J Jayalalithaa," the bench of Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice Abdul Quddhose ordered today.
Pertinently, the amount of assets, which are likely to come into their hands is about Rs. 188,48,66,305.51.
Class II Legal Heirs
The court was hearing a petition filed by J. Deepak who had moved the High Court seeking Letters of Administration for the properties and credits of the former CM, making his sister as the respondent who also filed a consent affidavit for issuance of Letters of Administration in their names, jointly.
They claimed to be children of Late Jayalalithaa's brother, falling within the Class II legal heirs category.
On a perusal of the documentary evidences produced by the siblings for establishing their relationship with the former CM, the court observed,
"The evidence of the Petitioner as P.W.1 and the documents marked as Exs.P1 to P12 and the consent affidavit of the respondent would make it abundantly clear that the petitioner and the respondent are the son and daughter of late Jayakumar, the brother of the deceased."
Accordingly it was held,
"Admittedly, late Chief Minister Dr.J Jayalalithaa was unmarried. In view of the above, petitioner and respondent, being the children of late Chief Minister Dr. J Jayalalithaa's brother Mr. J. Jayakumar have become legal heirs of late Chief Minister Dr. J Jayalalithaa. Under Entry IV of Class II of Hindu Succession Act, the petitioner and the Respondent get the status of Class II heirs of late Chief Minister Dr.J Jayalalithaa in the absence of Class I legal heirs."
Caveators Not Entitled To Jayalalithaa's Estate
Significantly, a caveat had been filed in the petition by one K. Pugazhenthi and P. Janakiraman, claiming to be followers of the former CM, seeking letters of Administration in favour of Administrator General of Tamil Nadu. They had stated that they have the right to approach the Court as they are the office bearers of Amma Peravai.
Earlier, they had appeared before a Single Judge Bench of the High Court which refused to grant such relief. An appeal against the said order was also preferred, which was heard jointly with J. Deepak's petition.
The Division Bench also declined the prayers made by the caveators and it concurred with the Single Judge who had held,
"the caveators may be her followers, but that cannot be a ground to oppose the grant of Letters of Administration to the petitioner and the respondent."
Reliance was placed on Krishna Kumar Birla v. Rajendra Singh Lodha & Ors., (2008) 4 SCC 300, whereby after considering the scope of "Caveatable Interest" the Supreme Court had held that unless the person approaching the Court shows some interest in the property of the Testator or the deceased in the case of Testamentary succession or in the case of intestate succession, the said person cannot file caveat either for letters of administration or probate.
The Top Court had further clarified that if there are heirs intestate who are alive, entertaining of a caveat on the part of another family member or a reversioner or an agnate or cognate would never arise.
Accordingly the Division Bench held,
"As far as the caveat filed by third parties is concerned, the learned Single Judge by an order dated 12.02.2019 rightly observed that the caveators cannot be said to be persons having any caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased Chief Minister.
When Class-II legal heirs are available, no other person or body will have any right over the estate of the deceased. Therefore, the caveators cannot have any right to approach the Court."
The present order also touched upon the controversy relating to occupancy of "Veda Nilayam", Jayalalithaa's residence at Poes Garden in Chennai. The premises comprising of 10 grounds had been lying vacant since December 2016, after demise of the former CM, due to ownership disputes.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu Governor promulgated an ordinance to temporarily take over Veda Nilayam, in a bid to convert the residence into a Government memorial.
Since the court has now held that the former CMs estate belongs to her legal heirs, the court advised the Tamil Nadu Government against spending public money for creation of a memorial when so many essential amenities are yet to be provided by the welfare State.
The court noted that the said property is worth about more than Rs.100/- Crores. Further, to create a memorial thereon, the Government will have to issue notice to the legal heirs and hear them during acquisition proceedings. The compensation payable for acquiring the properties will have to be determined and the said amount will have to be paid to the Legal Heir's in case of land acquisition.
Reserving its exception on this subject the bench observed,
"Instead of acquiring the said property, and paying heavy compensation, the said amount could be utilized for developmental purposes such as building infrastructures, providing potable drinking water, cleaning of water bodies etc., When there are so many essential amenities which are yet to be provided by the welfare State, public money cannot be wasted for the purpose of constructing memorials. The real tribute to any leader should be paid by following his/her principles and working for benefit of the people and development of the society."
The court went on to note that the Poes Garden property is vast and equipped with all facilities and infrastructures required for using as "Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State".
"In view of the above, this Court would suggest to the State Government to consider making the above property as "Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State" instead of converting the property as a "memorial" as desired by the Government.," the order states.
"If the State Government is particular that the property should be made as a memorial, instead of making the entire property as "memorial," the Government may consider making use of a portion of the property to set up memorial and the rest of the property as "Official Residence-cum-Office of the Chief Minister of the State" so that the property could be put to better use."
Heirs To Utilize Few Properties For Public Welfare
During hearing of the caveat petitions, both J. Deepak and J. Deepa had expressed their intention to create a "Trust" for making use of some of the properties in the name of their late aunt Dr. J. Jayalalithaa, for public purposes to do service to the general public. To this effect, they also filed their respective individual affidavits.
To put this submission into force, the court has directed both the of them to "allot a few properties, according to their discretion and create a registered Public Trust in the name of their late aunt "Dr.J.Jayalalithaa" for the purpose of doing public and social service as per their affidavits filed before this Court within a period of eight week."
The court also observed that since J. Deepa and J. Deepak have been declared as legal heirs of the former CM and since they are entitled to inherit her estate, there will be a security threat to them.
"Hence, the State Government is directed to forthwith to provide round the clock security to both J. Deepa and J. Deepak, at their own cost," the court directed.
In sum, the court has ordered:
Case Title: J. Deepak v. J. Deepa along with K. Pugazhenthi & Anr. v. Administrator General of Tamil Nadu & Ors.
Case No.: OP 630/2018 and OP 445/2018
Quorum: Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice Abdul Quddhose
Appearance: Advocate SL Sudarsanam (for J. Deepak); Advocate Thondan Subramanian and Sai Kumaran (for J. Deepa); Advocate NS Nandakumar (for Caveators); Advocate M. Baskar (for Administrator General of Tamil Nadu); Advocate AP Srinivas (for Income Tax authority); Advocate Rajnish Pathiyil (for ED Chennai); Advocate General Vijay Narayan assisted by Special Government Pleader TM Pappaiah (for State)
Click Here To Download Judgment In Deepak v. J. Deepa
Click Here To Download Judgment In K. Pugazhenthi & Anr. v. Administrator General ofTamil Nadu & Ors.