National Herald case: Delhi HC adjourns hearing till 22 November; judicial deferments makes it enter fifth year

The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing of the plea of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of the National Herald newspaper against the Centre’s order asking it to vacate its premises and said that the status quo be maintained till 22 November which is now the next date of hearing.

The publisher had approached the high court on Monday challenging the 30 October order of the urban development ministry, ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises in the press enclave at ITO in Delhi. Appearing for the publisher, Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued in court that the prosecution has ulterior political motives, ANI reported.

File image of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. PTI

File image of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. PTI

The court, which had earlier fixed the date of hearing in December, agreed to hear the matter on 15 November after Advocate Sunil Fernandes, appearing for the AJL, said there was urgency in the matter as they have been asked to hand over the possession to the Centre by that date and they had received the order of the Land and Development Office (L&DO) on 30 October after which the courts had closed for a vacation.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will on 4 December hear the final arguments on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi's petitions challenging a Delhi High Court order refusing to give them relief in a case of reopening of their tax assessments for 2011-12. Earlier, Delhi's Patiala House Court on 17 March deferred the hearing till 21 April.

Earlier, a Delhi court which had issued summons against Sonia, Rahul and others, on 7 August had deferred till 28 August the hearing in the case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy pertaining to the acquisition of the National Herald. Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha postponed the matter after the counsel appearing for the accused informed the court that Delhi High Court had on Wednesday stayed the criminal proceedings pending before the trial court till 13 August, PTI reported.

Meanwhile, on 26 May 2018, Swamy's application to the trial court seeking a directive for the defendants to verify material filed by Swamy in the National Herald case was denied. On 11 March 2016, the trial court after hearing Swamy's plea had allowed the examination of the balance sheets of the Congress party, AJL and Young Indian from 2010 to 2013, which was later overturned by the Delhi High Court.

Apart from that, on 30 April 2017, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had deferred the hearing on the petition of AJL — seeking a copy of the enforcement case investigation report (ECIR) registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — till 19 July 2017. The hearing was deferred after the high court was told that a related matter was pending before the Supreme Court as well.

Also, a district court in Delhi on 26 Decemebr 2016 had dismissed a plea by Swamy seeking documents in the National Herald case.

However, on 12 February 2016, the Supreme Court granted an exemption to all the five accused in the case from personal appearances while refusing to quash proceedings against them. Later on 12 July 2016, the Delhi High Court set aside the trial court judgment allowing examination of balance sheets and other documents of Congress party and other two companies, the AJL and Young Indian. The next hearing in the court was then scheduled to be on 20 August 2017.

In 2015, the Delhi High Court on 7 December had dismissed the appeals of Sonia, Rahul and five others which included Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Satyan Pitroda and ordered them to appear in person before the trial court on 9 December. But, they did not appear in the court and, on their lawyers' request, the trial court ordered them to appear before him in person on 19 December. He disallowed their request for exemption from personal appearance. On 19 December 2015, the Patiala House court granted bail to all but one and ordered them to appear in the court on the date of next hearing 20 February 2016.

In the same year, when the third judge of the Delhi High Court — Justice PS Teji — started hearing of the controversial case on 9 October, he did not heed to the demand of senior lawyer Kapil Sibal representing the Congress president Sonia Gandhi for postponing the case to November for arguments and fixed the date of 15 October 2015 for next arguments. “I have synopsis (written arguments) of all parties. No need of much time to argue,” Teji had said rejecting the demand for posting the case. Meanwhile, on 27 January 2015, the Supreme Court of India directed Swamy to make a case for speedy trial in the Delhi High Court.

Earlier in December 2015, first Justice VP Vaish heard the appeal of Sonia and Rahul and ordered for a temporary stay in the summons of the trial court. In January after ordering for a daily hearing, Justice Vaish recused from the case. Justice Vaish had ordered for daily hearing after Swamy approached Supreme Court in December 2014 citing delay from the side of Delhi High Court. In his petition to Supreme Court, Swamy said that the apex court on several occasions gave directions that higher courts should take a decision within six weeks on the appeals against the verdicts of the lower courts. Justice Sunil Gaur, the second judge also shifted from the case though he collected synopsis from all parties in September, promising speedy decision in the sensitive case. Both Justice Vaish and Justice Gaur had left from the case after hearing the matter for more than six months.

It all started when on 1 August 2014, Swamy was served notice to file a reply in the Delhi High Court. On 28 August 2014, the metropolitan court fixed 9 December 2014 for the next hearing of the case. However, on 12 January 2015, the judge of the Delhi High Court recused himself from hearing the case and directed that the petitions be directed before an appropriate bench.

The Congress top leadership approached the high court after Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha summoned them on the petition filed by Swamy on 26 June 2014. The Congress top brass was summoned to appear on 7 August, after the trial court found prima facie case in the acquiring the assets of National Herald's publishing company by floating a new private company.

With inputs from agencies


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Updated Date: Nov 15, 2018 17:12:41 IST

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