The Madras High Court on Wednesday cancelled the former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government’s acquisition of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa’s Veda Nilayam bungalow in Chennai’s Poes Garden area, reported The News Minute.

The High Court has transferred the ownership of the residence to Jayalalithaa’s niece J Deepa and nephew J Deepak.

The AIADMK government had last year acquired the property and planned to convert it into a memorial and open it to the public.

In its order, the High Court directed the government to hand over the keys of the mansion to Deepa and Deepak within three weeks. It said that the Income Tax Department can start proceedings to collect pending tax on the property.

Judge Seshasayee also questioned the former government’s contention that the acquisition of property was in “public interest”, reported Deccan Herald. He questioned the need for a second memorial pointing to one built in Marina Beach that costs over Rs 80 crore.

While Jayalalithaa had not left a will, the Madras High Court had declared Deepa and Deepak her legal heirs in May last year. It had said that as legal heirs, Deepa and Deepak were entitled to inherit all the properties left behind by Jayalalithaa and had asked the state government to reconsider its decision to convert her residence into a memorial.

Veda Nilayam served as the residence of Jayalalithaa for over 40 years. The house was purchased by the former chief minister and her mother in 1962 and is currently not occupied by anyone.

Even after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, her aide VK Sasikala was staying at the bungalow till her four-year prison term in a disproportionate assets case was confirmed by the Supreme Court.

After then, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit had promulgated an ordinance in May last year to allow the state government to “temporarily” take over the residence.

Deepa and Deepak had filed separate petitions against the acquisition. In their petitions, Deepa and Deepak had requested the High Court to quash the acquisition order as “perverse, arbitrary, biased, illegal, untenable, smacks of malafide and colourable exercise of powers”, reported The Week.

In her petition, Deepa had said that the mansion was bought by her grandmother NR Sandhya also known as Vedha Jayaraman in 1967. The house was then named “Veda Nilayam” after her grandmother.

Deepa also contended the acquisition of the bungalow will hamper the proceedings of the Justice Arumugasamy Commission looking into the death of Jayalalithaa.

“The state government cannot take two stands,” the petition said. “On one side, a commission was appointed and on the other side acquisition proceedings are taking place. “If the latter persists, the former will fail.”

She said that it was “sheer shame” that the government was taking possession of women’s personal belongings including her clothes and ornaments.

“It is unfair and indecent and harms the dignity of a woman,” the petition said. “I cannot allow any forms of insult by such acts on my aunt as she is like a mother to me.”

Deepa said that her family has a history in the mansion and also has several treasures from their ancestors, including materials of gold, silver, copper, platinum, diamonds and other precious metals.

“The antiques are of high value and heritage and were passed on to my aunt by our great grandfather who was a physician in the Royal Palace of Mysore,” she said.