In a relief to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders, the Delhi high court on Wednesday stayed a trial court proceeding against them over acquisition of the National Herald newspaper by a company owned by them.
Justice VP Vaish suspended the trial court order till August 13, when it will resume hearing the Congress leaders’ argument challenging the summon order.
On a complaint buy BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, the trial court had ordered Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, General Secretary Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey to appear before it tomorrow.
Swamy had alleged that the Congress leaders had resorted to “dishonest” means to take control over Associated Journal Limited (AJL) and its assets by a company, Young Indian Limited (YIL), in which both Sonia and Rahul are majority stakeholder with 38% shares each.
Besides Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Vora is among the directors of YIL, which has almost 99 per cent shares of the publishing house, which used to print 'National Herald' in English, "Navjivan" in Hindi and "Quami Awaz" in Urdu.
Seeking to quash the trial court order, Sibal contended, "These are unfortunate proceedings against a party that is seeking to revive a newspaper, which is associated with the Congress party for over 80 years.”
The former law minister said, "every decision of the magistrate at every point is erroneous" on fact and law.
Senior advocates Abhishek M Singhvi and Harin Raval also refuted the allegation that the Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders received wrongful gains from the deal saying that YIL was a Section 25 company, which is in the nature of a society, and its shareholders do not get any dividend, salary or benefit.
The Congress leaders had said that the acquisition of AJL by YIL was done to revive the loss making publishing firm, which was set up in 1937 to disseminate the policy and principles of the Indian National Congress (INC).
As AJL has had a “historical and emotive bond” with the INC, and the party has been providing it with financial support, Sibal said.
However, Swamy had alleged that AJL had received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and that the party transferred the debt to YIL for a “paltry consideration” of Rs.50 lakh.