The Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere with the order of the Delhi High Court rejecting the plea of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings in the National Herald case before the trial court but gave them some relief by expunging certain observations of the High Court.
The apex court also allowed their plea for exemption from personal appearance in the case before the trial court which is scheduled to take up the matter on 20 February. However, it came with a rider with the court saying that it would be open for the Magistrate at any stage to seek their personal appearance as and when required.
Though BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who is the complainant in the case, contested the plea for exemption from appearance, a bench comprising justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan said that "in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and the position occupied by the petitioners, we are of the view that the presence of the petitioners before the trial court would cause more inconvenience than convenience."
"Petitioners shall be exempted from personal appearance and it is needless to say that it will be open for the trial court to seek their presence at any stage if and when their presence is required," the court said.
The bench, which passed the order after hearing senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and R S Cheema, who were appearing for Gandhis and others, and Swamy, said, "So far determination granted by the Delhi high court in rejecting the prayer for quashing the proceedings against the petitioner, we do not find justification for interfering with it."
However, the apex court said it was not in agreement with the High Court which came out with the firm and conclusive findings and observations relating to the case against the accused persons.
"We are of the view that it was not open for the high court to record the findings conclusively. And the same would have been left to the trial court to record after recording of evidence. We hereby direct expunging of all inferences, findings and observations arrived by high court on various factual aspects of the matter," the bench said.
However, the bench said it affirms the views of the high court and reiterates that Gandhis and other accused can raise all their pleas and issues at the stage of framing of charges before the trial court.
"Accordingly, we permit petitioners to raise all the issues at the stage of framing of charges," the bench said.