National Herald Case: Delhi HC orders official documents to be kept in a sealed envelope

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Saturday directed that the documents summoned from the Ministries of Finance, Urban Development and Corporate Affairs, Income Tax Department and other agencies in the National Herald case would be kept in a sealed cover till further orders.

The direction came as Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and other accused in the case told the court that Subramanian Swamy should first satisfy them about the relevance of the documents ordered to be summoned, as the BJP leader said he would tell the court about it.

Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen observed that since Delhi High Court was seized of the matter, it would be appropriate that photocopies of the documents placed before the court be kept in a sealed cover.

"Since High Court is seized of the petition challenging the order dated 11  January, it would be appropriate that photocopies of the records produced today by the witnesses be retained in a sealed cover till further orders. The records be duly paginated before being sealed," the magistrate said.

In his complaint, Swamy has accused Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and others of cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of the now-defunct daily National Herald.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

The court passed the order after Congress leader Oscar Fernandes and other co-accused in the case, including Gandhis, argued that documents summoned in the matter be kept in court custody till the legal issue on this aspect is decided.

During the proceedings in which scribes were not allowed in the courtroom, the court allowed exemption from personal appearance for the day to the Gandhis and three other accused -- Motilal Vora, Fernandes and Suman Dubey.

Co-accused Sam Pitroda appeared before the court and the magistrate granted him bail on a personal bond of Rs 50000 with one surety of the like amount. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge stood surety for Pitroda.

Fernandes moved an application contending that Swamy's plea to summon these documents was allowed by the court on January 11 without hearing the accused.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the Gandhis, said that Swamy should first satisfy the court about the relevancy of the documents which were summoned.

Countering his submissions, Swamy said he would tell the court about relevancy of the documents which were necessary as they pertained to Associated Journal Ltd (AJL).

He said that Motilal Vora and Young India Ltd have already challenged the January 11 order before the High Court but the order was not stayed and the matter was listed for hearing on March 15.

Senior advocate R S Cheema, who appeared for Fernandes, told the court that the matter was pending before high court and the case before the trial court be listed after March 15

In his application, Fernandes claimed that Swamy's plea for summoning documents from these ministries and departments was allowed by the court "on the assumption that the record being summoned is relevant to the allegations and is otherwise necessary for prosecution of the complaint."

"The record summoned was voluminous. The documents being summoned were not specified. No period with reference to the record summoned was mentioned. Nor was there any averment on the connection of record being summoned with the accusations in the complaint, not to mention total ommission to refer any relevance," the plea said.

It said Swamy has also not furnished any list of witnesses sought to be examined by him today.

"Under the circumstances, the applicant is constrained to request this court to issue a direction that the record produced in pursuance of the order dated January 11 be kept in the custody of the court and parties be heard on question on relevance and necessity of permitting the production thereof," it said.

The hearing in the high-profile case witnessed a thick layer of security cover inside Patiala House courts premises, which had seen violence when JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar was produced a few days ago. Journalists were also not allowed to be present in the court room.

The court had on January 11 allowed Swamy's plea seeking summoning of documents from the Ministries of Finance, Urban Development and Corporate Affairs, Income Tax Department and other agencies in the case.

The court had on December 19, 2015, granted bail to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to the summons issued earlier.

The case is based on a private criminal complaint lodged by Swamy against them of cheating, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.

The Supreme Court had last week granted exemption to Sonia Gandhi from personal appearance in the trial court and also expunged some observations of the high court but refused to interfere with criminal proceedings before the lower court.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned for the alleged offences under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420(cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.


Updated Date: Feb 21, 2016 08:43 AM

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