National Herald case: Accused Sam Pitroda granted bail by Patiala High Court

In a major relief to technocrat Sam Pitroda, who is one of the accused in the National Herald case, the Patiala High Court on Saturday granted him bail.

The court also granted Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and three others exemption from personal appearance in line with a Supreme Court directive. Pitroda, who had earlier moved the bail application, furnished security of Rs. 50,000.
The next hearing in this regard has been scheduled for March 21 at 2 p.m.

The court also reserved its order on release of documents to BJP leader and petitioner in this case, Subramanian Swamy relating to transactions of Associated Journals Limited. Swamy had asked for these documents for scrutiny and to corroborate charges against Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and others.

Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the Gandhis, opposed the release of these documents to the BJP leader.

Sibal said that Swamy could have access to these documents without proper reasons and omnibus access to the documents is not permitted. 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.