SC stays HC's order to AJL to evict 'Herald House'

SC stays HC's order to AJL to evict 'Herald House'

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court's order to Associated Journal Ltd, controlled by Congress party's top brass, to vacate 'Herald House' here.

A bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi sought a response from Land and Development Office within four weeks against the HC's judgement of February 28.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said the question in the case was whether the transfer of shares of the company amounted to breach of the lease conditions.

The Associated Journal Ltd, controlled by the top brass of Congress party, was represented by senior advocates Abhishek M Singhvi, Devadatt Kamat and others.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Land and Development Office.

The court suspended all the proceedings initiated subsequent to the high court's judgement.

The high court, in its judgement, 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.”

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

In its petition, the AJL contended the action initiated against it was due to present dispensation's “pathological hatred for Nehruvian ideals”.

The AJL claimed that the eviction proceedings were for the purposes of “scuttling the voice of democratic dissent of the Congress Party”.

“It is a clear affront to the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and a deliberate attempt to suppress and destroy the legacy of the first Prime Minister of the country i.e. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the guiding light for the publications of the petitioner-company,” it said in its special leave petition.

The company which published Congress mouthpiece 'National Herald' and others, questioned the high court's division bench judgement which noted that the major portion of the five-storey 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 company said there were other eight allottees or lessees at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg who have subleased a portion of their premises.

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.

The company also challenged the findings of the HC stating transferring of AJL's shares to Young India, with Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia and others, having majority stakeholders, indicated “the dishonest and fraudulent design”

“The HC as a court of record could not have rendered findings that a transaction was purportedly clandestine and surreptitious transaction without there being any affidavit or averment by the official-respondents in the writ petition,” it said.