National Herald case: There was no criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, Cong tells HC

By
| Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 11:58
First Published |

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that the summons issued against her, Rahul Gandhi and five others was "illegal" in the National Herald case as the acquisition of Associated Journal Ltd by Young India was a "company matter".

"There was no criminal breach of trust and no criminal conspiracy and neither any cheating took place and it is a simple company matter where Young India has taken over the Associated Journal Ltd (AJL)," senior advocate Kapil Sibal told a bench of Justice Sunil Gaur.

In a hearing that lasted around 45 minutes, Sibal, who represented the Congress chief, said that the trial court order summoning Gandhi was "full of illegality".
He said that due to emotional attachment with AJL as it was supported by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi during Quit India movement, the party helped it by issuing loans worth Rs 90 crores over a period of 50 years.

"A section 25 company named Young India was floated with an aim of charity and it is a no-profit-or-loss company and Congress party had decided to give Rs 90 crore to Young India as a loan," Sibal said.

"Complainant (Subramanian Swamy) alleges that a criminal conspiracy was hatched by the accused and there was breach of trust. When Congress party can get donations why can't it give donations? How is it breach of trust?

"Suppose Congress gives donation to AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) and it uses the money for some other purpose, which may not be to the liking. Will it be a breach of trust?," Sibal said.

To this, Justice Gaur asked what was the reason for Congress party to assign the loan to Young India.

"Young India is a charitable company and since AJL's news paper National Herald was running in losses like most newspapers in India do, the amount was used for purchasing the equity shares of it," Sibal said.

Besides Sonia and Rahul, Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, General Secretary Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey had moved the High Court on July 30, 2014 against the trial court order summoning them in the case.

The trial court had on June 26 last year summoned Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes, Dubey and Sam Pitroda to appear before it on August 7, 2014.
The court asked Sibal how much shares Young India holds in AJL.

Young Indian has 99 per cent shareholding in AJL, Sibal replied.

Sibal also questioned the "locus" of Swamy in filing a private criminal complaint saying that it is a company matter and "no stranger can question company's transactions".

"He (Swamy) cannot even show that something illegal has been done and he says rents from the assets were pocketed by us. Here, the state also doesn't come into picture," he said.

Swamy refuted Sibal's contentions and said that after AJL closed down in 2008, payments of Rs 90 crore was made through a cheque, issued by treasurer of Congress Moti Lal Vora to the chairman of AJL (Vora himslef).

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, said that no cheque of Rs 90 crore was issued by "anyone to anybody".

The court then said to Swamy that his complaint does not say about any cheque and it will have to go through his averments.

It also perused the trial court's order and asked Sibal to point out the illegality, if any, in it.

"I have gone through it several times and every time, I go through it, I find a new point of illegality which is far from my understanding," Sibal said.

It is a very detailed order and even sections are mentioned for you (Sibal) to understand, the court said.

The court then asked Swamy to file a copy of the entire complaint, highlighting the averments.

"Brief arguments were heard. Put up for further arguments on 24 March," Justice Sunil Gaur said.

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