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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Delhi high court dismisses plea to stop eviction of National Herald publisher

In a setback to the Congress, the Delhi High Court on Friday ordered its newspaper, National Herald, to vacate building within two weeks.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2018 00:06 IST
Richa Banka
Richa Banka
New Delhi
The Delhi high court on Friday ordered its newspaper, National Herald, to vacate building within two weeks.
The Delhi high court on Friday ordered its newspaper, National Herald, to vacate building within two weeks. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

The Delhi high court on Friday dismissed a petition by the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) that challenged an eviction order by the central government, and ordered the publisher of Congress mouthpiece National Herald to vacate its premises in central Delhi within two weeks.

The high court rejected AJL’s allegation that the Centre’s move to evict it from the Herald House at Delhi’s ITO was a covert measure to erase the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, who founded the National Herald newspaper in 1938.

The Centre and the Land and Development Office (L&DO) said in the eviction order that no press was functioning at the premises for at least 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

Justice Sunil Gaur said the “allegations of mala fide [against the Centre] are preposterous” and granted AJL two weeks to vacate the Herald House, failing which the L&DO would be free to initiate proceedings under the Public Premises (PP) (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

The court said that the show-cause notice by the Centre “adheres to the principles of natural justice”. It said that an inspection of the said building revealed that “no press activity” was being carried out.

The single-judge bench also said that the manner in which a company named Young Indian (YI) acquired 99% of the shares of AJL was “questionable”. Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are majority shareholders in YI.

“No instances have been provided by petitioners in the writ petition in support of the serious allegations of mala fide levelled against the ruling dispensation. It has not been shown as to how the impugned order is vitiated by mala fide or what is the bias. It is not spelt out as to what is the oblique motive in passing of the impugned order. One fails to understand as to how the ruling dispensation has in any way erased, effaced or defamed Pt Nehru,” the court said. It added that YI had “hijacked” AJL.

“The ‘subject premises’ was leased out to legendary AJL for its publication, but the dominant purpose is now practically lost. This Court is constrained to observe that major portion of the ‘subject premises’ has been rented out and petitioners’ newspaper, which was to be housed originally in the basement and ground floor, has now been shifted on the top floor with hardly any ‘press activity’,” the court said.

The Congress said AJL will challenge the high court’s order. “The AJL is going to appeal against the order. It has a strong case and there is no illegality. We are confident that we will get justice based on strong facts and evidence in our favour,” said Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill.

Attacking the Congress over the issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the matter was a “text book case” of corruption. In the Narendra Modi government, the Congress will not be allowed to “loot” the country, Union minister and BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

First Published: Dec 21, 2018 14:32 IST