New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi today appeared in the Patiala House Court in the National Herald Case. On a complaint of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy the court had summoned the Gandhis, Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, general secretary Oscar Fernandes, journalist Suman Dubey and technocrat Sam Pitroda.
Here's what the case all about:
In 1938 during the freedom struggle, Jawaharlal Nehru, who went on to become independent India's first prime minister, started the National Herald newspaper.
- The paper originally served as a mouthpiece of the Congress was published by The Associated Journals Limited (AJL). However, over the decades, circulation dropped and finances dried out, and it finally closed in 2008 with a debt of Rs 90 crore.
- In a bid to keep AJL afloat, the Congress party gave the company unsecured, interest-free loans for some years up to 2010.
- On November 23, 2010, AJL was taken over by a newly-floated company called Young Indian Private Limited (YIL) with Gandhi family loyalists Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda as directors.
- The All India Congress Committee (AICC) decided to assign the nearly Rs.90 crore debt it was owed by AJL to YIL, thus making it the owner of the debt in the books.
- In December 2010, AJL decided to transfer its entire equity to Young Indian in lieu of YIL owning its Rs.90 crore debt. Young Indian paid Rs.50 lakh for this acquisition.
- AJL, which originally owed Rs.90 crore to the Congress party, became a fully-owned subsidiary of Young Indian by virtue of this decision and transaction.
- In December 2010, Rahul Gandhi was appointed its director and in January 2011, Sonia Gandhi also joined the board as a director. Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes too were appointed to the Young Indian board on the same day.
- As per documents, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have individual shareholdings of 38 percent each in the company while Vora and Fernandes hold the remaining 24 percent in equal parts.
- In 2012, Swamy filed a complaint before the trial court alleging that Congress leaders were involved in cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of AJL by YIL.
- The Gandhis and others will be tried on charges of dishonest misappropriation of property (section 403 IPC), criminal breach of trust (section 406), cheating (section 420) and criminal conspiracy (section 120 B).
- Swamy alleged that YIL had taken over over the assets of the defunct outlet in a "malicious" manner to gain profit and assets worth over Rs.2,000 crore.
- Swamy alleged that YIL had paid just Rs.50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs.90.25 crore that AJL had owed to the Congress party, given earlier as a loan to start the newspaper.
- Metropolitan magistrate Gomati Manocha, had issued summons to Gandhis and other on June 26, 2014 and noted that all accused persons had allegedly acted "in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious purpose/design". The court had asked all accused to appear before it on August 7, 2014.
- The Congress leaders on July 30, 2014 moved the high court, which stayed the summons. On December 7, 2015 the high court dismissed the appeals filed by the Congress leaders, observing that prima facie the case "evidenced criminality".
- The high court also raised questions regarding the legality of the initial loan granted to AJL by the Congress party.* Following the high court's order, on December 8 the trial court had directed them to appear on December 19.
- A notice appeared in Lucknow-based newspapers of Friday giving notice for an extraordinary general meeting of the AJL on January 21, 2016 to transform it into a not-for-profit company.
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