New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said in the Delhi High Court that the summons issued against her, Rahul Gandhi and five others in the National Herald case were “illegal”, claiming no one was cheated in the acquisition process.
A bench of Justice Sunil Gaur was told by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented the Congress chief, that not a single person was cheated during the acquisition of Associated Journals (AJL), the publisher of the now defunct National Herald newspaper, by the Young Indian (YIL).
“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 YIL has taken over the AJL,” the counsel claimed and asked how was “the complainant, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, affected by this private transaction”.
Mr. Sibal also said that the trial court order summoning Gandhi was “full of illegality“.
He said that due to the 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 crore 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,” Mr. Sibal said and said, “Is there any provision in the law that prevents any political party from giving loans?”
Mr. Sibal said that YIL was only a shareholder and does not earn or get a single penny from the AJL.
Besides Ms. Gandhi Sonia and Mr. Rahul Gandhi, 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, 2014 summoned Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Vora, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Dubey and Sam Pitroda to appear before it on August 7, 2014 on a complaint by Mr. Swamy alleging cheating in the acquisition of AJL, the publisher of National Herald newspaper, by the YIL.
Later, the High Court on August 6, 2014 had stayed the summons issued against the Gandhis and others, and on December 15, 2014 had listed the matter to be heard on day-to-day basis.
The court on December 15, 2014 had also stayed the summons till final disposal of the petitions.
During the hearing, Mr. Sibal also questioned the “locus” of Mr. Swamy in filing a private criminal complaint, saying it was a company matter and “no stranger can question the company's transactions”.
“He (Mr. 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,” the senior lawyer said.
The arguments, which remained inconclusive, will resume on April 22, 2015.
On January 12, 2015, Justice V.P. Vaish, who was hearing the matter, had recused from the case saying his roster of cases had been changed and directed that the petitions be listed before an appropriate bench.
Mr. Swamy had opposed the judge's recusal and requested that the matter be heard by the same court, which has been largely dealing with it, as a fresh hearing of the case would further delay the issue.
The court had, however, rejected Mr. Swamy's request and transferred the case.
Mr. Swamy had, in his complaint before the trial court, alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds by the Congress leaders in the acquisition of National Herald by YIL.