National Herald case: Sonia, Rahul to face IT probe after Delhi HC order

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday declined to stay the income tax proceedings against Young India Ltd in the National Herald case, which involves Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Chander Shekhar asked the company to approach the Income Tax assessing officer, after which the firm withdrew its petition.

The court then dismissed the plea as it was withdrawn. Young India had approached the high court seeking a direction to stay the IT proceedings and quashing of notices against it with regard to the National Herald misappropriation of assets case.

Earlier, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi had opposed as “vague and devoid of material particulars” of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking summoning of witnesses in the National Herald case.

The Gandhis, who are accused in the case along with some other Congress leaders, contended that Swamy’s plea was “in the nature of a fishing and roving enquiry which is not permissible in law”. The submissions were made in the reply filed to Swamy’s list of witnesses and other evidence given to metropolitan magistrate Lovleen in the case.

“The application preferred by the complainant (Swamy) is vague and devoid of material particulars and is in the nature of a fishing and roving enquiry which is not permissible in law.”

“Swamy has proceeded to enlist the witnesses and enumerate a number of documents without divulging the dates or relevant period for most of the documents sought to be summoned through the said witnesses,” the written reply filed by the accused said.

The court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on 22 April after Swamy sought time to go through the submissions made before arguments on the matter could begin. The accused claimed, “Swamy, through this application, is seeking to summon witnesses and call for documents without divulging their necessity and desirability on the basis of the allegations made by him in the complaint.

“The persistent attempt on the part of the complainant to have access the documents is clearly an attempt to make out a new case which is impermissible in law,” they said.

Swamy, in his private criminal complaint, has accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs50 lakh through which Young Indian Pvt. Ltd (YI) obtained the right to recover Rs90.25 crore which Associate Journals Ltd (AJL) owed to the Congress.

The Gandhis and other accused—Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda—have denied the allegations levelled against them. The court had summoned the accused persons, besides YI on 26 June, 2014. On 19 December, 2015, it had granted bail to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to summons. Pitroda was granted bail on 20 February, 2016 when he had appeared in the court.

Swamy had on 10 February filed the list of witnesses before the court which had on 26 December last year given him the last opportunity to submit the list. The list includes the names of eleven persons including All India Congress Committee’s general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, several officials of AJL and government officials.

In a relief to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the court had earlier rejected “as fishing enquiry” a plea of Swamy seeking a direction to the Congress party and AJL to produce certain records relating to the case.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC treasurer), Fernandes (AICC general secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned for alleged offences under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.