Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been summoned by a Delhi court as accused number 1 and 2, respectively, in National Herald newspaper case filed on charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
It seems the bure din for the Congress president and vice-president are not going to end soon. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been summoned by a Delhi court as accused number 1 and 2, respectively, in National Herald newspaper case filed on charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
The court has directed the mother-son duo to appear before it on August 7. Apart from them, the court has also summoned senior Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and former chairman of National Innovation Council Sam Pitroda. Former journalist Suman Dubey, who is close to the Gandhi family, was also summoned by the court.
National Herald Newspaper, started by first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938, was shut down in 2008.
On November 1, 2012, Swamy had alleged that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have committed fraud and land grabbing to a tune of Rs. 16 billion by acquiring a public limited company called Associated Journals Private Ltd (AJPL) through their owned private company, Young Indian. Through this they had got publication rights of National Herald and Quami Awaz newspapers, with real estate properties in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The acquired place was intended only for newspaper purposes but was used for running a passport office, amounting to lakhs of rupees, Swamy had claimed. Swamy had further accused Rahul Gandhi of hiding these facts in his affidavit while filing nomination for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Swamy had claimed that on 26 February 2011 AJPL approved the transfer of unsecured loan of Rs. 900 million from the AICC at zero interest. He argued that it is illegal for any political party to lend money for commercial purposes as per “Section 29A to C of the RPA (1951) and Section 13A of IT Act (1961)” and demanded investigation by the CBI and seeking de-recognition of the party by the Election Commission for using public money.
Responding on the allegations, Congress on Nov 2, 2012 had said that it intended to revive the newspaper that was run by Associated Journals Limited (National Herald) and admitted that the party had extended an interest-free loan to the ailing company.
Then Congress party general secretary and media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi had told reporters: “The Indian National Congress has done its duty in supporting The Associated Journals Limited to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the laws of the land.”
He also acknowledged that this support was extended by the Congress “in the form of interest-free loans from which no commercial profit has accrued to the Indian National Congress.”
Interestingly, he had made no reference to Young Indian, the company that Swamy had alleged was formed through the purchase of Associated Journals, in his statement.
The Hindu at that time had reported about Young Indian: “What is known thus far is that Young Indian, according to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website, was formed on November 23, 2010 and registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. It lists its address as 5A, Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi, the office of the now defunct National Herald. While Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Gandhi hold 76 per cent stake in the new venture, the remaining shares are owned by Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, who is also the chairman-cum-managing director of Associated Journals Limited, and party general secretary Oscar Fernandes. Veteran journalist Suman Dubey has been designated as managing committee member in the new company, while National Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda too is a member.”
On successfully dragging the Gandhis to the court, who had once challenged the BJP leader to file a case against them, Swamy told reporters: “This is a fraud, criminal breach of trust as they have managed to misappropriate the fund of Rs. 2,000 crore rupees. It is important for the court to take the passports of Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi so that they do not run away from the country before the hearing in the court.”
The Gandhis have been out of news since their decimation in the Lok Sabha elections. It is for the first time that first family of Congress has been made the main accused in any case and has been asked to appear before a court.
According to the reports, metropolitian magistrate Gomati Manocha, while issuing the summons, said: “I have found prima facie evidence against all the accused.”
If the allegations put by Swamy will be found true, it can spell disaster for the once very powerful Nehru-Gandhi family.