The Madras high court on Thursday appointed retired justice D Hariparanthaman to administer the properties of AIADMK founder and late Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran, potentially ending a 29-year-old battle over his will.
Justice MM Sundresh of the Madras HC made the appointment after dismissing pleas by the late CM’s relatives to appoint them as the administrator of his estates.
The execution of the actor-politician’s will had divided the family, spawned court cases and even led to a murder over the last 29 years.
“The testator is none other than the former chief minister of the state, who is known to be a philanthropist par excellence. After the life time of Mr Rajendran, the will authorises the high court to appoint an administrator as per law. Thus, conspicuously, the will did not name any one thereafter including any of his relatives,” justice Sundresh said, before appointing justice Hariparanthaman as administrator.
MGR’s will stipulated that senior advocate NC Ragavachari would be appointed executor, followed by his relative, M Rajendran.
MGR had divided his vast properties - including the 6.47 acre Ramvaram estate, which was the nerve centre of Tamil politics during his three tenures as chief minister - into two parts, granting his heirs and wife a life estate, but also stipulating that the majority of them be used for philanthropic purposes.
This resulted in the creation of a home and school for the deaf and dumb at Ramvaram in 1990, as well as the MGR Janaki College of Arts and Sciences for Women in 1996, with the former funded by the income derived from his property in Chennai’s salubrious Saligramam area, Sathya Gardens.
The AIADMK founder’s will also stipulated that the shares of Sathya Studios Private Ltd, a movie studio, would go to his party. In the event of its dissolution - which happened in 1988 after the party was split between Janaki and Jayalalithaa - the shares would go instead to the MGR Trust.
A family divided
MGR’s will made it clear that the properties belonged to him even in death, perhaps in an attempt to avoid a dispute among his family after his passing. But what happened instead was the complete opposite.
As long as his wife and sole legal heir, Janaki Ramachandran was alive, there was a semblance of peace within the family.
But what followed after her death in 1996 was bitter court battles, vociferous public attacks, and even a murder.
In 2008, K Vijaykumar , the husband of MGR’s adopted daughter Sudha, was killed at the behest of N Banu Sridhar, Sudha’s sister. The two sisters had been involved in a property dispute.
Sridhar was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment by the Madras HC in 2016.
After the death of M Rajendran, the only executor of MGR’s will from within his own family, in 2013, his wife, Latha, began petitioning the HC to allow her to assume her late husband’s duties.
Justice Hariparanthamam’s appointment has the potential to end the confusion over the late CM’s properties. The former judge has been told to report to the HC in eight weeks after inspecting all the properties and the accounts of the MGR Trust.
But it’s unclear whether the high court’s intervention will end the 30 years of bad blood in the family of the man adored in Tamil Nadu as ‘Puratchi Thalaivar’ (Revolutionary Leader).
- December 24, 1987 - MG Ramachandran dies. His will clearly stipulates that his wife, Janaki, is his only legal heir, and grants his adopted children, nieces and nephews living estates. NC Ragavachari initially appointed executor.
January 17, 1990 - The MGR Home & Secondary School for the Speech and Hearing impaired opens in Ramvaram.
- May 19, 1996 - Janaki Ramachandran dies. Her nieces, Geetha, Sudha and Janaki, her nephew Appu Ravindran, and her elder nieces Latha and Radha Gopalakrisha as well as MGR’s adopted son, K Vijaykumar remain as beneficiaries. Court battles over the property begin. M Rajendran, Latha’s husband, named executor
- June 12, 1996 - Dr MGR Janaki College of Arts & Sciences for Women established.
- April 27, 1998 - K Vijaykumar, at the behest of his wife Sudha, launches a public campaign against Rajendran, claiming the trust has been mismanaged and the will misunderstood.
- June 4, 2008 - K Vijaykumar waylaid and bludgeoned to death by a group hired by N Banu Sridhar, Sudha’s sister. His murder was the result of a property dispute between the two.
- July 14, 2016 - N Banu Sridhar, along with six others, found guilty of Vijaykumar’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Madras high court.
- November 24, 2016 - The Madras high court appoints former Justice and retired judge D Hariparanthamam as executor of MGR’s will. He is told to report to the court in eight weeks time after making a detailed inspection of the Trust’s properties.