The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea by Associated Journals Ltd (controlled by Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and others) against an order to vacate 'Herald House'.
It also noted transferring of AJL's shares to Young India, with Congress leaders having majority stakeholders, indicated “the dishonest and fraudulent design”.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao rejected the petition and upheld a single bench order for vacating the premises within two weeks.
The court said the single bench had rightly on December 21, 2018 held that the dominant purpose for which the lease was granted has been violated and there has been misuse of the conditions of the lease.
The court also found substance in the finding that the entire transaction of transferring the shares of AJL to Young India, controlled by Rahul, Sonia and other Congress leaders was “nothing but, as held by the learned writ Court, a clandestine and surreptitious transfer of the lucrative interest in the premises to Young India”.
The company which published Congress mouthpiece 'National Herald' 'Quami Awaz' and 'Navjivan', challenged validity of a single judge order which noted that the major portion of the five-storeyed building at 0.3 acre of the prime land was rented out and there was hardly any press activity as the newspaper has been shifted out to the top floor.
The Land and Development office had on October 30, last cancelled the lease of 'Herald House' at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and ordered for vacating the building while exercising power under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.
After the pronouncement of judgement, the company sought time to file an appeal before the Supreme Court but the court refrained from passing any order.
In its 63-page judgement, the high court found substance in Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's submission that when the premises was inspected on September 26, 2016, no press activity was being carried out in the area for the last eight years and all the employees were granted VRS. The digital publication of the English version of 'National Herald' started from November 4, 2016.
Young India acquired beneficial interest on AJL's property which was valued at more than Rs 400 crores on payment of a sum of Rs 50 lakhs to AICC. "The modus operandi adopted is nothing but a device to transfer the property held on lease from the government by AJL, Young India which became 99% or rather 100% shareholder of AJL," the government said.