National Herald case: Delhi HC dismisses Rahul and Sonia's plea, BJP hails decision saying 'they cannot hide'

The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the pleas of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi seeking to quash summons issued to them by a trial court on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's complaint in the National Herald case.

hidden December 07, 2015 22:00:00 IST
National Herald case: Delhi HC dismisses Rahul and Sonia's plea, BJP hails decision saying 'they cannot hide'

In a massive blow to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed their pleas challenging summons issued to them in the National Herald case in which they have to appear before the trial court on Tuesday. BJP today welcomed the Delhi High Court order asking Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul to appear before a lower court in the National Herald case, saying they cannot “hide” from law which was “taking its own course”.

The Delhi HC observed that the actions of Congress office-bearers named in the National Herald case “smacks of criminality”, and dismissed on Monday appeals filed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi and five others against summons to face trial.

The bench of Justice Sunil Gaur turned down the pleas for exemption from personal appearance in the case in the trial court, where it is listed Tuesday, sending the Congress into panic mode. The Congress said it will approach the Supreme Court Tuesday morning against the High Court order. The trial court is likely to issue a date for personal appearances of all accused, reports The Indian Express.

Who? The Gandhis and five others — Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd (YI) — had challenged the trial court summons.

Why? BJP’s Subramanian Swamy had filed a case alleging cheating and misappropriation of funds in the Gandhis taking control of the now-defunct National Herald newspaper.

What? On 7 December, a High Court bench, in a 27-page judgment, observed that the modus operandi depicted “criminal intent”.

Soundbites:
Congress on Swamy: “BJP’s petty vendetta politics”.

Swamy on next step: Said he would file caveat before Supreme Court, reported by The Indian Express.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain: “This is what happens when you buy such a huge property for a pittance. Law is taking its own course. They (Gandhis) had also gone to the court. Law is equal to the common man and Sonia Gandhi. They cannot hide from it.”

'Petitions are dismissed'

"Petitions are dismissed," Justice Sunil Gaur said in his judgement while also declining another of their plea for exemption from personal appearance in the lower court.

National Herald case Delhi HC dismisses Rahul and Sonias plea BJP hails decision saying they cannot hide

Sonia Gandhi (Left) and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The Gandhis and the other five accused--Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd--will have to appear in the trial court on Tuesday, before which the case will come up.

It also refused to extend the 6 August, 2014, interim order by which the summons were stayed. Read the full text of the judgement here.

"No," Justice Gaur said in response to oral pleas by senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for the accused, that either an exemption from personal appearance be granted or the 6 August, 2014 order staying the summons be extended.

The court, in its judgement, has also questioned the need for extending interest-free loan to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) the publishers of National Herald. "Where was need to extend interest free loan," it said.

“Even writing off such a huge debt by the Congress party can legitimately attract allegations of cheating, fraud, etc. Petitioners had gone a step further in conspiring to get this huge debt assigned to a special purpose vehicle i.e. YI and thereafter, to hijack AJL via YI. Such grave allegations levelled against petitioners cannot be brushed aside lightly by relying upon judicial precedents cited, to conclude that the ingredients of the criminal offences alleged are lacking. To say the least, to do so would be preposterous.”

“Such a prima facie view is being taken in view of the fact that the assignment of the huge debt by Congress party to YI was for a paltry sum of 50 lacs. This is certainly questionable and justifiably attracts the allegations of cheating, misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, etc,” the bench said.

The bench also dismissed the argument of locus standi raised by the Congress leaders, observing that the case involved allegations of siphoning of party funds which were under the control of party office-bearers.
“It will not be fair to literally interpret Section 39 of CrPC or to assert that a private citizen is free to proceed against corrupt public servants but not against a political party when it is accused of serious offences of cheating, misappropriation, etc. In a unique case like the instant one, expanded meaning to the law has to be given.”

“In the considered opinion of this court, the plea of locus standi cannot be restricted to typical cases of cheating,misappropriation, etc, as here is a case where the act of office-bearers of a political party having criminal overtones is under scrutiny,” the bench said.

The trial court had on 26 June, 2014 summoned all the above accused to appear before it on 7 August, 2014 on Swamy's complaint.

The Congress leaders had, thereafter, on 30 July, 2014, moved the High Court which had stayed the summons on 6 August in 2014.

Thereafter, on 15 December, 2014, the court had stayed the summons till final disposal of the petitions.

The summons were issued on a criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of the now-defunct daily National Herald.

With PTI inputs

Updated Date:

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