Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi, will challenge in the Supreme Court on Tuesday a Delhi high court order dismissing pleas of party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi against summons issued to them on allegations thay they illegally acquired property worth crores belonging to the defunct National Herald newspaper.
The party cited legal deficiencies in Monday’s high court verdict, which declined to grant the party chief and vice-president exemption from personal appearance before a trial court.
This means the two top Congress leaders along with four other accused — Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez and Sam Pitroda — will have to show up before the trial court on Tuesday unless the Supreme Court provides them relief.
The summons was issued on a petition by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who 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.
Swamy 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.
The Congress said it would challenge the high court order before the apex court and claimed on Twitter that as part of the BJP’s “petty vendetta politics”, a “completely misconceived” private complaint was instituted by Swamy.
Congress party's stand on the National Herald case. (3/7) pic.twitter.com/Gk5reAeZ45— INC India (@INCIndia) December 7, 2015
Congress party's stand on the National Herald case. (4/7) pic.twitter.com/hPmlJDMxYE— INC India (@INCIndia) December 7, 2015
“We have an open and shut case. There have been several legal deficiencies. We have unassailable arguments,” said Congress spokesperson and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing Rahul Gandhi in the case.
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.”
The high court verdict could blunt the opposition party’s attacks on the government in Parliament over a slew of issues.