Big jolt for Sonia, Rahul in National Herald case

Big jolt for Sonia, Rahul in National Herald case

HC rejects plea to stay summons

Big jolt for Sonia, Rahul in National Herald case

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi suffered a setback on Monday after the Delhi High Court dismissed their pleas against summons issued in a case of alleged irregularities in the acquisition of a daily, National Herald.

“This court finds that the ingredients of the offences alleged are not lacking and sufficient ground to proceed against petitioners certainly exists,” Justice Sunil Gaur said, as he refused to grant them exemption from appearing before the trial court on Tuesday.

Justifying summons also issued against other Congress functionaries Motilal Vora, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda, the judge further said: “Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage (to come later) to find out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage.”

The court noted that the modus operandi adopted by petitioners in “taking control of Associated Journals Private Ltd (AJL) via a special purpose vehicle ‘Young India Private Company’ (YIL), particularly when the main persons in Congress party, AJL and YI are the same, evidences a criminal intent.”

The summons order was passed on June 26 last year on a petition by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had alleged cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of AJL, publisher of National Herald, by a company called “Young Indian Limited”, in which the Gandhis reportedly hold shares.

The circulation and financial health of National Herald, started in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, steadily deteriorated over decades, leading to its closure in 2008 with a debt of Rs 90 crore.

Swamy had accused the Congress of loaning this money to AJL and then assigning the debt to YIL for Rs 50 lakh, a transaction that the BJP leader said amounted to cheating and a breach of trust.

On his complaint, the trial court had directed the six accused, including Congress general secretary Oscar Fernandes, Dubey, Pitroda and two directors of YIL, to appear before it.
The Congress said it would challenge the High Court order before the Supreme Court because of “several legal deficiencies” in the verdict.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “We have an open and shut case. There have been several legal deficiencies. We have unassailable arguments,” he told reporters, while making it clear that the party will “not only challenge (before the apex court), but will take all legal recourse and avenues.”

Meanwhile, Swamy filed a caveat before the Supreme Court seeking a hearing before passing any order in the case. The matter is likely to be mentioned before the apex court on Tuesday.