The Supreme Court on Friday declined to quash the summonses issued to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald cheating case, saying there was no justification to interfere with it.
Refusing to intervene in the Delhi High Court order upholding the summonses issued to the mother-son duo by a city court, a bench headed by Justice JS Khehar, however, gave the Gandhis some relief by expunging the HC’s remarks that virtually gave a conclusive finding against them.
“These observations were not required and should be expunged. This is not fair. The judge has drawn conclusion and prejudiced the trial,” the bench told complainant and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who accepted the court’s view.
The bench exempted the Gandhis from personal appearance in the case before the trial court on February 20, saying they held important positions and their presence would cause more inconvenience than convenience. But the bench said the magistrate concerned could call the two whenever required.
Swamy objected to the exemption from personal appearance. However, the court said: “It’s better they don’t go there because their presence will lead to chaos. They are not going to run away. If we know that someone can run away then we ensure the person’s presence.”
The Gandhis appeared in court on December 19.
“It’s they (the Gandhis) who cause chaos, not me. I go all alone,” Swamy joked. At this senior advocate Kapil Sibal, counsel for the Gandhis, said: “He doesn’t realise wherever he goes alone, chaos follows him.” The bench remarked in a lighter vein: “We feel envious… why aren’t we Subramanian Swamy?”
Besides the Gandhis, the other leaders who will continue to face the proceedings at Patiala House courts are Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Sam Pitroda. They have also been exempted from personal appearance.
However, the court did not accept their plea to quash the summonses. “Insofar as the determination rendered by the HC in rejecting the prayer for quashing is concerned, there is no justification in interfering with it,” the bench ordered.
As Sibal began arguments on behalf of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the bench made it clear it had no intention to stay the trial. Sibal said the transaction between the two companies underlined that no cheating case was made out against his clients. He argued that nobody was cheated because of the dealings.
Swamy has accused the Congress leaders of cheating and misappropriation of funds in taking control of the now-defunct daily. He has alleged they conspired to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which Young India obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL, publisher of National Herald, owed the Congress party.
The bench refused to make any comments on the merit of the case.
Sibal complained Swamy had no locus standi to file the complaint. “Raise this when you argue against framing of charges,” Justice Khehar said.