National Herald Scam: Court Orders Congress to Vacate Premises

Congress President Rahul Gandhi with his mother Sonia Gandhi (file photo). Courtesy: Congress
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with his mother Sonia Gandhi (file photo). Courtesy: Congress

The Delhi High Court today dismissed the petition filed by Associated Journals Limited (AJL) linked with Congress and observed that the order passed by the government justifies the re-entry of the premises at 5-A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi.

According to a statement released today by India’s Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, the court has further ordered that there is no impediment in the way of the government to invoke the provisions of PP Act [ The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 ] to seek eviction and vacant possession of the property within a period of two weeks by 03.01.2019.

The case – filed by an Indian politician Subramanian Swamy against Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and his son Rahul Gandhi, and others – is known as the National Herald (newspaper) scam.

The government statement added that 0.3365 acre of land was allotted to AJL in Delhi in 1962-63 at a concessional rate of Rs. 1,25,000 per acre for construction of a five-story building (in addition to basement) for purpose of press on the ground floor and offices on other floors.

However, according to the statement, complaints were received regarding misuse of the land. It was found by the inspecting team of the ministry on April 09, 2018 that no printing press was functioning at any floor of the premises and no paper stock was found anywhere.

In earlier inspection also, the basement where press machine should have been, was found vacant. Further, the statement adds that it was also found that almost all shares of AJL were transferred to ‘Young Indian Ltd’ having same address as that of AJL without any permission of the ministry.

As per a report of Income Tax Department, in Young Indian Ltd., majority of shares (76%) are held by the Gandhi family and the rest by other Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes.

It was also observed that instead of using the land given to AJL for press purpose, they are earning a huge sum of money by renting out almost entire building except one floor which has negated the purpose for which the land was originally allotted.

Since all these violations came to the notice of the government, Show Cause Notices were issued to AJL on June 18, 2018 and again on September 24, 2018.

As AJL could not give any satisfactory reply to these violations, order for re-entry of the premises was issued by the ministry on October 30, 2018. Against this order, the AJL had gone to the Delhi High Court which pronounced its order today.

As per the complaint filed in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, AJL took an interest-free loan of Rs. 90.25 crore (US$13 million) from the Congress party. It is alleged that the loan was not repaid.

A closely held company, Young Indian, was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs. 50 lakh (US$70,000) and it acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL and all its properties (alleged to be worth Rs. 5,000 crore (US$700 million).

Subramanian Swamy had alleged criminal misappropriation by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The courts had determined that a prima facie case was established in the matter.

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