In a major setback for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Delhi High Court today allowed the Income Tax department to launch an investigation into the National Herald case.
Following the court’s order, Young Indian Private Limited, the firm whose directors are Gandhis, will face investigation by the I-T department.
“Young Indian can’t be arrogant,” the bench ruled, adding that it must submit its tax documents. The firm had earlier moved the Supreme Court to stall the case.
Reacting to the news, BJP leader Sambit Patra termed the development as a major setback for Congress party and said that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi should come forward.’
Earlier, a Patiala House court had allowed an investigation in the case, which was challenged in the Delhi HC.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said that it was they who decided to withdraw the petition challenging the Income Tax department's probe into the matter.
"Young Indian had raised certain fundamental jurisdictional issues challenging authority of Income Tax authorities. Hon'ble Delhi High Court directed Income Tax authorities to decide all the issues raised in petition before Delhi High Court. Being satisfied with it, Mr. Abhishek Singhvi, Advocate for Young Indian has himself withdrawn the petition," he said.
"Incidentally, Young Indian is a 'not for profit' company that only runs the 'National Herald ' paper which is the last vestige of freedom movement which contributed to India's freedom struggle. No one can withdraw a single rupee of profit, salary or dividend from it or benefit from it any manner as per the Companies Act. We are proud of protecting this imp symbol of the freedom struggle and will always protect this trust of people of India," he added.
The Congress spokesperson further said that witch hunt or malice of the current BJP government will not deter them from upholding their "bounden duty to the nation".
The case pertains to a private criminal complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in 2012, in which he had accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs 50 lakh through which Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YI) obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which Associate Journals Limited (AJL) owed to the Congress.
Besides the Gandhis, other accused Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda have denied the allegations levelled against them.
On Swamy's plea, the trial court in its January 11 and March 11 orders had sought documents from Ministries of Finance and Urban Development, Department of Corporate Affairs and Income Tax Department and 2010-11 balance sheet of the Congress party in the case, which were submitted by the INC and AJL on April 8.
However, on July 12, Delhi High Court had set aside both the orders of the trial court saying they were passed in a "casual manner" and "without application of mind".
Swamy then filed a fresh application before the trial court seeking summoning of certain documents while the Congress leaders and AJL sought the return of documents including its balance sheet, which had been submitted in the court.
In this application, Swamy had sought documents relating to a loan given by the Congress to the AJL, the holding firm of the National Herald, saying these were necessary for the purpose of trial.
During the hearing on December 9, the counsel appearing for the accused had told the court that Swamy was seeking a "fishing and roving enquiry" in the case by calling for documents from the party and the AJL as he wanted to make out a "new case" against them.
Swamy, however, had termed the allegation as baseless and said his demand was legitimate.
The court had on June 26, 2014, summoned Sonia, Rahul, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda as accused in the case besides YI.
It had on December 19, 2015, granted bail to Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to summons. Pitroda was granted bail on February 20 when he had appeared in the court.