Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
New Delhi: In what is likely to be a crucial day for the Congress party, the Delhi High Court will on Wednesday decide the fate of its national president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul in the National Herald case, in which they have been summoned to appear before a trial court on August 7.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing till today on the petitions filed by Sonia and Rahul seeking quashing of the trial court summons to them in connection with the case.
The High Court also refused to stay the summons against Gandhis.
Kapil Sibal appearing for Sonia Gandhi opposed the summons and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy`s complaint arguing that a political party is within its right to "write-off" or "assign" a loan.
The Delhi High Court had last week issued notice to Swamy – a key petitioner in this case - to reply to the Congress leaders` petitions in this case. Swamy, however, sought more time to file a detailed report.
At the heart of the court case is Associated Journals Limited (AJL), publisher of three newspapers, including National Herald, an English daily founded and edited by Jawaharlal Nehru before he became independent India`s first prime minister.
In 2008, the company closed its operations with an unpaid debt of about USD 15 million, according to allegations in a copy of the court order. The case accuses the Gandhis of setting up a firm called Young Indian Company to buy the debt using Congress party funds even though AJL allegedly had real estate assets worth at least USD 335 million, which would have cleared the debt.
Motilal Vora, the Congress party treasurer, was managing director of Associated Journals and later became a shareholder of Young Indian Company, according to the allegations. Swamy alleged that Young Indian Company then owned all the equity in Associated Journals and rented out its properties to profit its shareholders, including Rahul and Sonia, who together controlled 76% stake.
Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi were summoned by the court in June after Swamy filed a complaint accusing them of cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of now-defunct daily National Herald.
In his petition, the senior BJP leader had alleged misappropriation of assets worth Rs 2000 crore of the National Herald newspaper. Swamy had also accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which Young Indian obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the Associate Journal Limited had owed to the Congress party.
Congress leaders have alleged vindictiveness by the new BJP government, which took power in May after winning the national election and said that it will respond to them in court.
Among other leaders who have received summons include Motilal Vora and senior Congress member Oscar Fernandes.
Interestingly, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said that the National Herald case against the Gandhis may come to an end if the Congress party returns the loans.
Speaking to a TV news channel, Jaitley also cleared that the Enforcement Directorate was not conducting any enquiry against the Gandhis into the matter.
Though Income Tax department has built a strong case in the National Herald matter concerning the Gandhi family, there may be no case made out by Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Minister was quoted as saying.
"The National Herald case is prima facie a very strong case. The Congress could simply return the loan and the matter could end. There is no truth to media reports of an Enforcement Directorate inquiry in the Herald case," the Finance Minister said.
Jaitley was referring to reports suggesting that Enforcement Directorate was conducting a preliminary enquiry to see if a case could be made out under stringent sections of the money laundering Act. Sources said the agency was scanning documents with Registrar of Companies to see if it could formally register a case.
The court had summoned Sonia Gandhi and her son to appear before it on August 7 in connection with the case, hence it would be interesting to see if they get any relief from the court in the case.