Gandhis appear in court, get bail

Sonia, Rahul accuse govt of misusing Central probe agencies

Gandhis appear in court, get bail
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul got bail from a Delhi court on Saturday after they appeared before it on summons issued in the “National Herald” case.

The top Congress leaders, besides party treasurer Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and family friend Suman Dubey, also accused in the case filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, were each told by the court to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and surety of the same amount.

In a brief hearing lasting about 10 minutes, Swamy, arguing the case himself, urged the court to impose conditions like surrendering their passports, which was not accepted.

“The accused are reputed persons having deep political grassroots and there is no apprehension that they will flee,” said Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen.

Swamy claimed he did not oppose the bail plea but sought direction for restrictions on the Gandhis’ travel abroad as they were in the habit of running away from the country.

Congress lawyers — senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Ashwani Kumar and Abhishek Manu Singhvi — along with former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, A K Antony, Shiela Dikshit, Ambika Soni and Meira Kumar were also present during the hearing. 

Former defence minister A K Antony gave surety for Sonia and Priyanka did the same for Rahul. Congress leader B K Hariprasad gave surety for Vora, Ghulam Nabi Azad for Fernandes and Ajay Maken for Dubey. The court fixed February 20 as the next date of hearing. Sam Pitroda, another accused, was granted exemption on health grounds.

After reaching the AICC headquarters, Sonia and Rahul accused the Narendra Modi government of levelling false allegations and misusing Central agencies to target opponents.

The BJP, however, claimed it was a legal matter and the Congress was trying to give wrong impression to the people. Congress leader Singhvi said, “In deference and great respect to the court, we all appeared through counsel.”

Earlier, several layers of security were put around Patiala House Court complex. Hordes of party supporters, journalists and lawyers descended outside the court complex following the decision by the Gandhis to seek bail in the case.

The trial court had on June 26, 2014, issued summons against Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandez, Dubey and Pitroda in the case. The Delhi High Court, which had earlier stayed the summons, rejected their plea on December 7.

Swamy has alleged cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of Associated Journals Limited — the publisher of “National Herald” — by the Young Indian Limited (YIL), a company in which the Gandhis hold 76 per cent shares.

He accused the Congress of lending money to AJL and then assigning the debt to YIL, a transaction that he claimed amounted to cheating and breach of trust.

The circulation and financial health of the “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.

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