Published On : Thu, Feb 4th, 2016

Sonia moves SC in National Herald case, says HC wants a “roving enquiry”

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul gandhiNew Delhi/Nagpur: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against a December 7, 2015 order of the Delhi High Court dismissing appeals filed by her, son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, and others to stay summons issued to them by a trial court in the National Herald case.

In her petition, Ms. Gandhi contended that the Single Judge of the High Court “conducted a roving enquiry into allegations of a general nature without examining the questions as to what offences are alleged to be prima facie made out”.

Ms. Gandhi said the complaint in the case was filed with the objective of defaming her. She said she has deep roots in the society and had been at the helm of national politics for years. She said the complaint and summons, if not quashed, would cause irreparable damage to her reputation.

The summons were issued on a complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy of alleged cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of the now-defunct National Herald by Young Indian Limited (YIL). The Congress leaders own a stake as directors in YIL, registered as a charitable company.

The petition, filed by advocate Devadutt Kamat, before the apex court said the HC order lacked “objectivity, judicial restraint and adherence to the settled principles of law”.

It argued that “unwanted assumptions” were made in the HC order of a vague general nature based on unstated and unproved facts without considering if the ingredients of criminal breach of trust has been made out in the complaint.

The complaint alleged corruption in the assigning of loan worth Rs. 90.25 crore owed to the Congress by Associated Journals Limited (AJL), publisher of the National Herald, to YIL for Rs. 50 lakh.

It asked how donations to political parties do not amount to entrustments.

As far as the offence of cheating is concerned, Ms. Gandhi said no avermens or materials have been placed on record to prove the allegd nature of dishonest intentions from the very inception.

The High Court had observed that the gravity of the allegations had a “fraudulent flavour” involving a national political party. Therefore, serious imputations smacking of criminality levelled against the petitioners needed to be properly looked into. Justice Sunil Gaur of the High Court made scathing remarks on the “questionable conduct” in the acquisition of the publication and said the criminal proceedings could not be thwarted at the initial stage.

“After having considered the entire case in its proper perspective, this court finds no hesitation in putting it on record that the modus operandi adopted by petitioners in taking control of AJL via the special purpose vehicle (YIL), particularly when the main persons in Congress, AJL and YI are the same, evidences a criminal intent,” the court said in its 27-page judgment.

Besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the five others — Motilal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and Young Indian Limited — had challenged the summons.