Sonia, Rahul get bail in Herald case, attack Modi

Sonia, Rahul get bail in Herald case, attack Modi
After a 10-minute hearing, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were today granted unconditional bail in the high-voltage National Herald case by a local court where they appeared along with a phalanx of top party leaders.

Facing a private criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the transfer of shares of the defunct party newspaper Herald to a newly-created company, the two Gandhis, accompanied by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh besides Priyanka Gandhi appeared before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen at 2.50 PM.

The party's legal eagles Kapil Sibal, Ashwini Kumar, both former Union Law Ministers, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as also top Congress leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, A K Antony, Shiela Dikshit, Ambika Soni and Meira Kumar were at hand.

Sonia, Rahul and three other accused in the case --Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey--sought bail which was granted after they furnished personal bond of Rs.50,000 and one surety each.  One of the accused Sam Pitroda was not present as he was stated to be unwell.

Swamy pressed the court to impose conditions on the foreign travel of the accused, which was not accepted by the court.

He said later that he had not opposed the bail but had told the court that conditions should be imposed on the Gandhis' travel abroad since they "were in the habit of running away from the country".

The magistrate fixed Feb 20 as the next date of hearing and the proceedings were over within minutes after which the Gandhis came out smiling.  They had to navigate through jostling lawyers, journalists, security men and party workers to reach their cars.

Later addressing the media at the party office, Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of levelling "false allegations" against them  and making  "full use" of government agencies to "deliberately target" the Opposition. "We will continue the fight and not bow down," they said.

"The accused are reputed persons having deep political grassroots and there is no apprehension that they will flee," the Magistrate noted while granting them bail on furnishing personal bond of Rs.50,000 each and one surety.

While Antony gave surety to Sonia, Priyanka stood surety for her brother. Congress leader B K Hariprasad gave surety for Vora, Ghulam Nabi Azad for Fernandes and  Ajay Maken for Dubey.

In his reaction, Swamy said all their claims that they would not seek bail proved false. "They said they will not take bail. What happened now," he told reporters after the short hearing.

Sibal and Singhvi told the court that these are people who have deep roots in society and they hold high office and do not have any previous charge against them.

The summons were issued by the court on Dec 8 after the Delhi High Court the previous day had refused to quash the summons issued to them earlier to appear as accused. Both Sibal and Singhvi told reporters after the proceedings that the court rejected Swamy's plea and gave bail to the leaders.

"It is most unfortunate that Swamy sought imposition of conditions including restrictions on travel abroad but the court granted unconditional bail," Singhvi said. "I don't see the slightest reason for dissatisfaction with the court order," he added.

Rejecting Congress criticism that he was doing vendetta politics at the behest of Congress, Swamy said look at the evidence in the case and not vendetta. "I have so many friends (in the BJP).  I am a Jan Sanghi.  I know them (BJP leaders) personally.  I have not taken an appointment with the prime minister and spoken to him at all about the case," he told reporters.

The Magistrate made it clear that no exemption from personal appearance will be granted to any accused for the next date of hearing. The judge, who held the proceedings in a closed room, asked Swamy to bring all relied upon documents in support of his complaint on the next date of hearing.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

The trial court had on June 26 last year asked them to appear before it on August 7, 2014 but the order was stayed on August 6, 2014 by the Delhi High Court which on December 7 this year vacated the stay by rejecting the plea to quash the complaint and the summons. On December 15, 2014, the court had further stayed the summons till final disposal of the petitions.

Swamy has accused them of cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of Herald. All of them were directors of Young Indian Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 and which took over the "debt" of Associated Journals Ltd  (AJL), the publisher of National Herald.

Swamy had accused Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.

Along with the Gandhis, five other accused -- Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vora, Oscar Fernandez, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd--had challenged the summons issued to them by trial court on Swamy's complaint.

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