Centre justifies move to get Herald House vacated

The court sought to know if the transfer of shares of the company amounted to breach of the lease conditions. (PTI File Photo)

The Union government has justified before the Supreme Court the cancellation of the lease granted to Congress-controlled Herald House' here on October 30, last. It said publication of 'National Herald', was closed to allow commercial use of thousand crores of assets built at 0.3 acres of the prime land here.

The dominant purpose of the lease was lost with the publication of the National Herald newspaper having been ceased for more than a decade and the employees given the VRS, the government said.

In an affidavit, the Land and Development office of the housing and urban affairs ministry stated that the closure of the National Herald, not just for a brief period, but for a long elongated period, makes it clear that no press activity was being carried out by the Associated Journal Ltd.

"The show cause notice clearly records that the inspecting team did not find any "printing press" in the premises. The basement was lying vacant, ground floor and first floor were rented to the Passport office, second and third floor to TCS and the fourth floor was used by AJL," it pointed out. 

The government further said the purpose of the closure of the publication activity as stated in the said order of income tax department was to use the property of M/s AJL worth several thousand crores for other commercial purposes. 

"A company in the name of Young Indian was incorporated on 23.11.2010 having a registered office at 5A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi, the same place where the leased property of AJL is situated.  It has been stated in the said order that 99% shares of AJL were transferred in the name of Young Indian (controlled by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on 26.02.2011 which was later made nearly 100%," it said.

The transaction entered into between Young Indian and AJL sought to surreptitiously transfer a lucrative interest in the premises entirely to other persons, which is a valid ground for piercing the corporate veil to ascertain the actual intention behind the transaction, the government added.

Notably, the top court had on April 6 stayed the Delhi High Court's order of February 28 to Associated Journal Ltd, controlled by Congress party's top brass, to vacate 'Herald House' here.

The court sought to know if the transfer of shares of the company amounted to breach of the lease conditions.

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