Delhi HC upholds order to vacate 'Herald House'

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 Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea by Associated Journals Ltd, controlled by Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, and others, against an order to vacate 'Herald House' here.

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 company which published Congress mouthpiece 'National Herald', challenged validity of a single judge order of December 21, 2018 which noted that the major portion of the five-storey building at 0.3 acres 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.

The high court's single bench had pointed out “startling revelations” regarding takeover of the AJL by Young Indian Company, whose shareholders are UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, and other leaders Motilal Vohra and Oscar Fernandez.

By transfer of AJL's 99% shares to Young Indian Company, the beneficial interest of AJL's property worth Rs 413.40 crores stands clandestinely transferred to Young Indian Company. Infact, AJL has been hijacked by Young Indian Company, it noted.

“This court is constrained to observe that major portion of the 'subject premises' has been rented out and petitioners' newspaper, which was to be housed originally in the basement and ground floor, has now been shifted on the top floor with hardly any 'press activity',” Justice Sunil Gaur had said by dismissing a plea by the AJL.

The court found the orders issued by the Land and Development Office on October 30 as “well-reasoned” to cancel lease of Herald House and to vacate the building here.

“This court is of the considered view that by no process of reasoning, can it be said that the 'subject premises' is not liable to be proceeded against under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971,” the judge said in the 17-page judgement.

Notably, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi each owned 38 % shares of Young India Pvt Ltd, which held the majority stakes in the AJL.

The high court also noted, “This court is conscious of the fact that Young Indian Company is a charitable company, but modus operandi to acquire 99% of AJL's shares speaks volumes. The manner in which it has been done is also questionable.”

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Delhi HC upholds order to vacate 'Herald House'

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