New Delhi: Hours after a Delhi court asked Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi and others to appear on December 19 in connection with a complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the National Herald case, the former put on a brave front saying “she was not afraid of anybody or anything.”
“I was asked in the morning by your colleague if I was afraid. I replied that I am the daughter-in-law of Mrs Indira Gandhi and I am not afraid of anybody or anything,” the Congress president said.
Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen also granted the Gandhis exemption from personal appearance on Tuesday.
Reacting on the issue, Rahul Gandhi said, “I absolutely see a political vendetta. This is the way Central govt functions. I am going to keep asking exactly the questions that I have been asking. I am going to put pressure on the govt and I am going to continue to do my job.”
The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the plea of the Gandhis to quash the summons issued to them by a trial court on Swamy’s complaint regarding the acquisition of National Herald and asked them to appear before a trial court on Tuesday.
Justice Sunil Gaur dismissed their pleas which meant they would have to appear before the trial court in the case.
Apart from the Gandhis, the court also dismissed the pleas of Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, family friend Suman Dubey and party leader Oscar Fernandes who had moved the high court for quashing of summons to them by a trial court.
On June 26, the trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders on Swamy’s complaint about “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) by Young India Ltd (YIL) – “a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday hailed the Delhi High Court order in this regard.
“This is what happens when you buy such a huge property for a pittance,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters here.
“India’s law is equal for the common people and Sonia-ji and Rahul-ji. Zyada der luka-chhupi nahi chalti (one can’t play hide-and-seek for long),” he added.
Indian National Congress lends Rs 90 crores to AJL, with no interest
AJL transfers all the shares with the Rs 90 crores debt to Young Indian, in return for Rs 50 lakhs
Subramanian Swami files a private complaint in a court in Delhi, to uncover what is being investigated as the ‘National Herald Scam’
National Herald scam is a case that put the Indian National Congress under public scanner, with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi being in the spotlight, it involves other names such as Motilal Vora. All of it started on 1st November 2012 when BJP’s Subramanian Swamy filed a private complaint (a crusade against corruption) in a court in Delhi. He alleged criminal misappropriation by the Gandhis. According to Swami, the Gandhis had committed fraud by illegally acquiring a public limited company, Associated Journals Limited (AJL) through Young Indian, a private limited owned by them.
The case came out as a conspiracy to amass wealth by exerting influence in the Indian National Congress and fooling the shareholders of AJL. Even though Rahul Gandhi called it a ‘political vendetta’, he surely didn’t expect Swami would be able to connect all the dots and reach a conclusion of ‘why would the Congress party lend a loan of Rs 90 crore (with no interest) to AJL?’
It is an unlisted public limited, incorporated on 20th November 1937. It’s registered office is Herald House, 5-A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi. Even though it was an idea of Jawaharlal Nehru, he never owned AJL. It was started with the support of 5000 freedom fighters who became shareholders. AJL’s initial capital was Rs 5 lakh, which was divided into 2,000 preferential shares each worth Rs 100 and 30,000 equity shares worth Rs 10 each.
Motilal Vora (also the treasurer of the Indian National Congress) was the chairman and managing director of the company since 2002. The company commanded publishing rights of the National Herald newspaper. It also owned various real estate properties which were estimated to be around Rs 5000 crore. AJL had incurred huge losses before it was transferred to Young Indian in 2011.
What is Young Indian?
It is a private limited which was incorporated on 23rd November 2010 with a capital of Rs 5 lakh. Its registered office too, was 5-A, Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi. The company’s 76% shares are held by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi (who are also in the board of directors), whereas the rest are held by Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes, another Congress leader.
How was AJL transferred to Young Indian?
The Indian National Congress provided AJL with an unsecured zero interest loan of Rs 90 crores. Remember, the treasurer of INA and chairman of AJL are both the same person, Motilal Vora.
In December 2010, the Board of Directors of Young Indian formally passed a resolution offering to own the outstanding dept of AJL of Rs 90 crores. This offer was accepted by the Chairman and Board of AJL.
The AJL thereafter held a meeting of their Board and without reference to the Shareholders resolved that in lieu of Young Indian owing the debt and for a further consideration of `50 Lakhs, the entire share equity of AJL would be transferred to Young Indian. Thus, AJL became a wholly owned company of Young Indian.
The INA wrote off the loan as irrecoverable by falsely holding that the Net Worth of the Company is negative.
The Memorandum of Association of the AJL bars the Company from entering into any transaction which is not for furthering its objective to publish newspapers.
National Herald House is a prime property in Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and was given by the Government for the purpose of publishing a newspaper at concessional rates. However, the Young Indian now owner of the National Herald House has opened this property for commercial renting such as to Multinational Companies and to the Ministry of External Affairs for its Passport Seva Kendra on rent.
Why should Young Indian, which is majorly owned by the Gandhis, be assign the AJL’s debt of Rs 90 crore that was gonna be written off the INA?
Why didn’t AJL, which owns several real estate properties, use a part of its prime assets to repay the debt?
A number of shareholders have claimed that AJL’s chairman, Motilal Vora, and its directors did not inform them or obtain their approval while deciding to transfer its entire equity to Young Indian in December 2010.
“This is the first time I am hearing about such a company in which my grandfather had shares. I have no idea what kind of deal was struck. Had a letter or a notice for approval been sent to any of my siblings or at our Allahabad address, I would have been informed,” said former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju, whose grandfather Kailash Nath Katju held 131 shares in AJL.
As alleged by Subramanian Swami, it is illegal for a political party to lend money for commercial purposes as per Section 29A to C of the Representation of the People Act, and Section 13A of Income-tax Act.
“According to the evidence so far, it appears that YIL was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use to acquire control over ₹20 billion worth of AJL assets.” said Metropolitan Magistrate Ms. Gomati Manocha in 2014. The court had noted that all the accused, allegedly, had acted “in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious purpose/design”.
The National Herald case is currently an ongoing one, with the accused being charged under Sections 403, 406 and 420 read with Section 120-B of IPC.