A Delhi court granted on Tuesday temporary relief to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi, saying they would have to personally appear before it on December 19 to face charges of financial irregularities in case that has paralysed Parliament.
Metropolitan magistrate Loveleen granted exemption to the Gandhis for the day and set a fresh date for appearance after senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the judge “they are keen to appear before the court”.
“Why should I be scared of anyone? I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, I am not scared of anyone,” said a confident Sonia Gandhi as her party members blocked both houses of Parliament.
When asked if it was a case of political vendetta, the Congress President said, “ I leave it on you to judge.”
Watch | Sonia Gandhi says ‘I’m Indira’s daughter-in-law, not afraid’
Llater in the day, however, party vice-president, Rahul Ganhdi called developments in the case as “political vendetta”.
Visiting rain-hit Puducherry, Rahul said, “I absolutely see a political vendetta. This is the way the central government works.”
He also said that this won’t stop him from asking questions.
“Centre thinks they can stop me from asking questions about them by “vendetta” politics. That is not going to happen,” said the congress vice-president.
The Congress has also decided to approach the Supreme Court against a Monday Delhi high court order that the party chief and vice-president exemption from personal appearance.
The summons had been issued on petition by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who accused the Gandhis of illegally acquiring property worth crores belonging to the now-defunct National Herald newspaper.
During the hearing, Swamy objected to the exemption, saying, “They (the Gandhis ) were informed about the date of appearance in advance, this is no ground for personal exemption”.
But the Congress has repeatedly alleged that the allegations are politically motivated.
“Ruling party in power is using proxy litigation to attack senior Congress persons out of political malice. This is political vendetta at its worst, Dr.Swamy, the complainant, is a senior member of the BJP central committee,” senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told ANI.
“We believe the case has no legs to stand upon and we shall fight it within the confines of the law.”
Raucous protests by Congress parliamentarians also triggered an adjournment in the Lok Sabha amid fears that an enraged principal opposition party may block key reform bills, including the goods and services tax.
There are four other accused in the case — Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez and Sam Pitroda. Rahul is also scheduled to leave for Chennai on Tuesday to take stock of flood relief.
Swamy has alleged cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of Associated Journals Limited (AJL) – the publisher of National Herald – by a company called Young India Limited (YIL), in which the Gandhis reportedly hold shares.
The BJP leader on Monday filed a caveat in the Supreme Court to pre-empt any ex-parte order on appeals likely to be filed by the Gandhis. “I have filed a caveat in the Supreme Court that in case they file any petition, it should not be heard and no order be passed without giving me an opportunity or without hearing me,” he said.
Started in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the National Herald’s circulation and financial health steadily deteriorated over decades, leading to its closure in 2008 with a debt of Rs 90 crore on its head.
Swamy accused the Congress of loaning this money to AJL and then assigning the debt to YIL for Rs 50 lakh – a transaction that the BJP leader said amounted to cheating and a breach of trust.
The National Herald building in New Delhi is prime real estate, which was leased out for commercial purposes and AJL is receiving rental of Rs 60 lakh a month for this property alone. AJL also has real estate assets of at least Rs 2,000 crore in posh areas of New Delhi and several other places, Swamy claimed.
“This is what happens when you buy such a huge property for a pittance,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters, as he also took a dig at the Congress president who returned from the US on Monday after a medical check-up. “Law is equal to the common man and Sonia Gandhi. They cannot hide from it.”