In a setback to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed their plea to quash summons issued to them by a trial court on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s complaint in the National Herald case.
Justice Sunil Gaur dismissed their pleas which means the Gandhis will have to appear before the trial court in the case.
“This court is of the considered view that the gravity of the allegations levelled against petitioners has a fraudulent flavour involving a national political party and so, serious imputations smacking of criminality levelled against petitioners need to be properly looked into,” said the court.
“Without casting any reflection on the merits of this case and while leaving the larger questions raised in these petitions open, to be considered at the charge stage, these petitions and the pending applications are dismissed with afore-noted clarification.”
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 the 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 eac h own a 38 percent stake”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who had appeared for Sonia Gandhi, sought quashing of the proceedings initiated by the lower court against her and the others, saying that the complaint made by Swamy against them were only “allegations without any supporting proof”.
He had said there was no illegality in Young India Ltd. (YIL) taking over Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL), the publisher of the now-defunct National Herald newspaper, as per the Companies Act.
Swamy had claimed that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, as majority shareholders of YIL, benefited from the acquisition of AJL. He alleged that AJL had received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and that the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs.50 lakh.
At the time, AJL, which had Vora as its chairman, claimed that it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.
Saying there are sufficient grounds to summon them, the high court said: “After having considered the entire case in its proper perspective, this court finds no hesitation to put it on record that the modus operandi adopted by petitioners in taking control of AJL via Special Purpose Vehicle i.e. YIL, particularly, when the main persons in Congress Party, AJL and YIL are the same, evidences a criminal intent.”
“Whether it is cheating, criminal misappropriation or criminal breach of trust is not required to be spelt out at this nascent stage. In any case, by no stretch of imagination, it can be said that no case for summoning petitioners as accused in the complaint in question is made out.
“Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage.”
Filing the plea in the high court, the Congress leaders had said Swamy was a political opponent and the present criminal proceedings were initiated only with an intent to secure an oblique political objective.