National Herald case: Congress, AJL may submit account books to court

  • Avantika Mehta, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 08, 2016 15:43 IST
The Congress party and Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) may submit their balance sheets for the year 2010-2011 on Friday before a Delhi court . (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

The Congress party and Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) may submit their balance sheets for the year 2010-2011 on Friday before a Delhi court that had asked for the documents in a case related to alleged misappropriation of party funds in the acquisition of the now-defunct National Herald newspaper.

Metropolitan magistrate Loveleen had asked them to furnish the papers on March 11 in the case in which Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and four others are accused. This is likely to be the first time the financial documents of the grand old party have been sought in a criminal case.

Metropolitan magistrate Lovleen, after hearing the submissions, posted the matter for April 8 for the next hearing on the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

The Metropolitan magistrate had asked AJL, which published National Herald, to produce its annual account books for the period observing that these documents could not be referred as “personal documents” of the accused.

“While periodically the balance sheets are filed before the Election Commission and individuals in their capacities have submitted their finance documents to courts, but the manner in which Congress’ financial documents have been summoned in this case is unconventional to say the least,” a party source said.

Swamy had charged Sonia, Rahul and five other Congress leaders of “cheating” in the acquisition of AJL by Young India Pvt Ltd (YIPL). Sonia and Rahul own 38% stakes each in YIPL.

The order had come on a plea filed by Swamy who had sought financial documents of the Congress for three years starting 2010-11. However, after seeking some clarifications, the court said it would “partly allow” the application.

Swamy had said the documents are relevant to prove his charges that the Gandhis and directors of YIPL – Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda – had conspired to misappropriate funds in acquiring National Herald.

He added the documents were also referred to in the June 26, 2014, order summoning the Gandhis and others as accused in the case.

According to Swamy, the Gandhis and the four directors YIPL had conspired to misappropriate funds by helping AJL obtain a loan of over Rs 90 crore from the party’s funds, of which just Rs 50 lakh was eventually paid back to the political party. The newspaper, which was launched by the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, ceased publication in 2008.

On February 20, the court had directed that some documents from the ministries of finance, urban development and corporate affairs, income tax department and other agencies in the case would be kept in a sealed cover till further orders, noting that the Delhi high court was seized of the matter.

The court granted bail to Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey on December 19, 2015, after they appeared before it. Pitroda was granted bail on February 20.

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