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Chennai, Aug 8: The final journey of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, a five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, began from Rajaji Hall here for Marina Beach on Wednesday evening. Karunanidhi passed away on Tuesday, setting the stage for a midnight courtroom drama, that carried over to the next day, over where the body shall be buried. Eventually, the court ruled in favour of the DMK and the last rites would be performed at Marina Beach.

Within minutes of the DMK patriarch’s death, a huge row erupted after the state’s AIADMK government rejected the demand of the DMK, its arch-rival in the state politics, for land on the famous Marina beach where he could be buried. Wasting no time, DMK’s counsel P Wilson and A Sarvanan rushed to the residence of H G Ramesh, the Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, with a plea to direct the state government to revoke its decision denying permission for Karunanidhi’s burial and erection of a memorial to him on the beach.

Their plea was granted and Justice Ramesh and his fellow judge S S Sundar began hearing the petition minutes before midnight. The judges heard the arguments by counsel for the DMK and the state government before adjourning the matter around 1.15 a.M for resumed hearing at 8 in the morning.

The mortal remains of Karunanidhi were brought to Rajaji Hall on early Wednesday after it was taken to his homes at Gopalapuram here and at CIT Colony for relatives and leaders to pay their last respects to the departed leader. The counsel for DMK questioned the government’s legal ground for not allotting space for burying Karunanidhi at the Marina beach.

Senior counsel for the state government, making their submissions, said they would get instructions and file a counter in the morning. In his observations, the acting chief justice told the government counsel that “every minute of delay” may cause problems to the government and asked if it was prepared to handle it. He also said that Karunandhi was among the tallest leaders of the country and asked what was the problem in allotting a burial site for him at the Marina.

Advocate G Doraisamy (Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam) and PMK advocate K Balu submitted before the bench that they were withdrawing their petitions against the construction of a memorial for Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at the Marina beach. This will remove legal hurdles for the government allowing a site for Karunanidhi, they told reporters later. Counsel for DMK P Wilson and Saravanan had earlier gone to the residence of the acting Chief Justice and sought permission to move an urgent motion.

Earlier, DMK working president M K Stalin, recalling the long public life of Karunanidhi, had written to Chief Minister K Palaniswami seeking space inside the mausoleum complex of the departed leader’s mentor C N Annadurai at the Marina. A government statement said it was “unable to allot space at Marina beach owing to several pending cases in the Madras High Court and legal complications.”

Hence, the government is prepared to allot a two-acre site on Sardar Patel Road near the memorials to Rajaji and Kamaraj, it said.

Hours before the unsavoury courtroom saga unfolded, Karunanidhi was declared dead by the hospital where he was undergoing treatment since his admission on July 28 when his blood pressure had dipped. “With deep anguish we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar M Karunanidhi on 07.08.2018 at 6.10 pm. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond.

“We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide,” a press release by Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, Executive Director of Kauvery Hospital, said. The state government announced a seven-day mourning for Karunanidhi. The Indian national flag would fly half-mast during this period and all government-related functions would be cancelled, Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan said.

The government declared a day’s holiday on Wednesday for Karunanidhi’s final rites. His mortal remains would be kept at Rajaji Hall for VIPs and public to pay homage, she said. State honours will be accorded to Karunanidhi and the Tricolour will be draped over him, she said, adding a gun salute will also be given to the late leader.