Gandhis exempted from appearance in National Herald case

New Delhi : In a major relief to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Friday exempted them from personal appearance in the National Herald case.

“We are not happy with what the Delhi High Court said in its judgement,” said an apex court bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan.

The apex court also said that the Delhi High Court judge has drawn a conclusion which can affect the trial.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had filed a caveat in the apex court to pre-empt any ex-parte order on appeals likely to be filed by the Gandhis in this case, told the media that it is a total defeat of the Congress Party in the fight against corruption.

“From the beginning the main case was the quashing of the High Court order, they were defeated in that. Now, whether they are to be called everyday or not, it is a minor matter, it is a total defeat of the Congress Party in the fight against corruption,” Swamy said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is the lawyer for the Gandhis in this case, expressed his delight with the apex court’s observation and said that his clients were not running away and cooperating in the matter.

“The matter was just heard by the honourable court and there are three or four elements of vital importance. The first is that every inference and conclusion in the order of the High Court has been rendered non- operative by the apex court,” Singhvi said.

“Every point which we have argued here in the High Court is left open to us to argue again at the stage of framing charges. No point is concluded or precluded on the charge stage which is yet an intermediate stage,” he added.

Singhvi further said despite opposition, there has been full exemption granted by the apex court.

“Let me make it very clear that from day one, the accused did not refuse to come to the trial court. We were present at the very first hearing before the trial court. We wanted to participate. So, we asked for no more now but for exemption and we have got it,” he added.

The Gandhis had moved the apex court earlier this month, appealing against an order that asked them to appear in a Delhi trial court on February 20.

On June 26, last year, the trial court issued summons to them on Swamy’s allegations of ‘cheating’ in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) by Young India Ltd (YIL) — a firm in which Sonia and Rahul own 38 percent stakes each.

The Delhi High Court had in December 2015 rejected their plea and directed them to appear before the trial court.

The case relates to the Indian National Congress granting an interest-free loan of Rs. 90.25 crore (USD 13 million) to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), owner of the National Herald newspaper which was established by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938.

It was alleged that the loan was either not repaid or repaid in cash, which is in violation of Section 269T of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

A closely held company, Young Indian, was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs.5 lakh (USD 7,400) and it acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL and all its properties (alleged to be worth Rs.5000 crores (USD 740 million).

The Congress leaders have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP Government of ‘political vendetta’ in the National Herald case. (ANI)