With former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa having passed away evidently without leaving a will, and there being no natural claimant to her property and other worldly possessions, there is bound to be speculation about who will be the legal heir to them. One obvious claimant would be Sasikala Natarajan who lived with her as a friend and confidant for many years until the end came on Monday night, December 5 and was her trusted companion through thick and thin. Jayalalithaa was a spinster and had no relative who could be deemed to be close to her or who she was in touch with. She had lost both her parents early in life and she had no living sibling. Reports say her niece Deepa Jayakumar and Deepa’s brother Dipak made several attempts to see Jayalalithaa when she was in hospital for 75 days prior to her death, but were prevented from doing so.
Jayalalithaa lived in a palatial 24,000 square feet bungalow in posh Poes Garden in Chennai, which, according to media reports, was bought by her in 1967 for a mere Rs 1.32 lakh and is today believed to be worth Rs 90 crore. In the affidavit filed for this year’s assembly elections, she declared her assets at Rs 118.58 crore. She also declared some commercial property and 14.5 acres of agricultural land near Hyderabad. Except the Poes Garden property and some inherited jewellery, a special court had attached all of these properties in the ongoing disproportionate assets case in which the Supreme Court has reserved its judgement. Whatever way the judgement goes, it is quite on the cards that there would be a protracted legal battle on who gets to inherit the property of Jayalalithaa. There is the classic case of Jayalalithaa’s mentor, M.G. Ramachandran, who was a charismatic chief minister like she rose to be, and whose house remained mired in legal disputes for two decades after his death after which the Madras High Court recently appointed a former judge as administrator for his assets. One wonders whether Jayalalithaa’s properties would meet the same fate after getting involved in prolonged litigation.