National Herald case: Delhi High Court to resume hearing publisher Associated Journals Ltd's petition today

The Delhi High Court will on Thursday resume hearing on the petition by Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of the National Herald newspaper, against their eviction from the Herald House.

The high court had adjourned hearing in the case on 15 November and said the status quo should be maintained till 22 November at the Herald House from where the National Herald newspaper is published.

Justice Sunil Gaur's order came on a plea filed by AJL on 12 November, challenging the Centre's 30 October direction that the Herald House be vacated.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court that it will follow court's direction and maintain status quo till 22 November.

The AJL alleged that the Centre was "illegally, unconstitutionally, arbitrarily and in a deliberate attempt" trying "to suppress and destroy the legacy of the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru".

The urban development ministry had said the Herald House's 56-year-old lease to AJL had ended and asked the AJL to vacate the premises by 15 November.

Asian Games. File image of Delhi High Court. PTI

File image of Delhi High Court. PTI

While hearing the petition on 15 November, AJL's counsel and senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi had told the court that two officials of the Land and Development Office had entered the National Herald premises.

Mehta, had refute the claim, and had said that he would look into the matter.

The court had said the Land and Development Office could not take possession in such a way and would have to follow proper procedure under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act.

The government had assured the court that it would not take possession of the premises but it wanted to initiate legal proceedings to have the building vacated.

The AJL had told the court that it had been publishing the National Herald newspaper for decades. There was a temporary suspension due to financial trouble, but the newspaper and its digital media operations have fully resumed.

The weekly 'National Herald on Sunday' was resumed on 24 September, 2017, and it is published from the Herald House. On 14 October, the AJL resumed its weekly Hindi newspaper.

The government reportedly inspected the premises a few months ago and found that the area allotted to AJL was not being used for the publication of the newspaper for the past 10 years, the court was told.

AJL said those who came for inspection did not visit the rooms where the printing press was installed along with stocks of papers.

Countering the allegation in connection with Young Indian being a shareholder of AJL, Singhvi told the court the change in shareholding does not mean that the property has been transferred to Young Indian, and that AJL still owns the premises. Young Indian is a firm in which UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake.

He said AJL remains the leaseholder of the building and that the addition of a new shareholder does not in any way violate the lease conditions nor does it constitute sale or transfer of the property.

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 07:16:00 IST

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