A Delhi court on Tuesday said Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi will have to appear before it on December 19 to face allegations of financial irregularities, granting them temporary relief in the National Herald Case.
The Gandhis and five others --Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd (YIL)-- have been summoned by a trial court on a complaint of cheating and misappropriation of funds filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
Swamy alleges that properties worth Rs 2,000 crore belonging to the now-defunct newspaper were usurped by the Gandhis through fraudulent papers.
Here in short is what the case is all about.
1.National Herald newspaper was started by former prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1938 during the freedom struggle. It originally served as a mouthpiece of the Congress. Over the decades circulation and finances dropped, before it finally closed in 2008 with a debt of Rs 90 crore. After that, the company Associated Journal Limited (AJL) became a real estate firm with properties in Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai.
2. In 2010, AJL was taken over by a newly-floated company called Young India Limited (YIL). Swamy alleges that both Sonia and Rahul own 38% shares each and are directors in Young India. The remaining shares are owned by the other respondents. He further alleges that Young India had acquired AJL with a Rs 90 crore interest-free loan from the Congress party. Under the Income Tax Act no political organisation can have financial transactions with a third party.
3. Swamy accuses the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by first loaning the money to AJL and then assigning the debt to YIL for Rs 50 lakh. This implies that Congress has written off the remaining Rs 89.5 crore.
4. Swamy’s later additions, in 2012, alleges that the respondents “fraudulently acquired” properties of AJL in Delhi, UP and other places.” The National Herald building in the heart of Delhi fetches a monthly rent of Rs 60 lakh. AJL also has real estate assets of at least Rs 2,000 crore in the city and and other places. What this means, according to Swamy, is that against properties worth Rs 2,000 crore, AJL has a limited liability of just Rs 90 crore.
5. Congress maintains that YIL was created “with the aim of charity” and not for profit. It also claims it was not a financial transaction but a ‘commercial’ one. It also calls Swamy’s complaint ‘politically motivated.’
6. In 2014, the trial court asked Sonia and Rahul to appear in the case. On December 7, 2015, the high court dismissed their appeal and asked questions about the legality of the unsecured loan. They were also directed to appear before the trial court.