Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi today moved the Supreme Court against a December 9, 2015 Delhi high court verdict that dismissed their appeal for quashing of summons issued to them by a trial court in connection with the politically sensitive National Herald case.
On June 26, last year, the trial court issued summons to them on BJP leader Subramanian 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 Gandhi own 38 per cent stakes each.
Swamy, alleged that both had cheated and created a breach of trust in the acquisition of the now-defunct National Herald by Young Indian Limited (YIL).
The prayer in their appeal filed in Supreme Court said: “Grant special leave to appeal against the Order dated 07.12.2015, passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, set aside the Summoning Order dated 26.06.2014 passed by the Ld. MM, Patiala House Courts and quash the complaint and proceedings in‘Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs. Smt. Sonia Gandhi and others’ before the Ld. MM.
It also sought an interim relief to “stay the operation of the impugned Order dated 07.12.2015 passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi”
The appeal raised 17 substantial questions of law for the consideration of the apex court most important of it being “whether the HC has failed to examine the questions of fact and law arising in the Petition which has resulted in manifest injustice? Whether the impugned judgment is liable to be set-aside as the Hon’ble Single Judge of the High Court has evaded the question as to what offences are alleged in the Complaint and as to whether there are grounds to proceed against the Accused, and whether the allegations in the Complaint and the material brought on record prima-facie substantiate the said accusation?
The Congress has already dubbed the whole case as 'vendetta politics'.
Along with the Gandhis, five other accused - Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandez, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd – have also challenged the summons issued by a trial court
The High Court was of the view that the gravity of the allegations levelled against petitioners (Sonia, Rahul and others) has a fraudulent flavour involving a national political party and so, serious imputations smacking of criminality levelled against petitioners need to be properly looked into.
“The sum and substance of the allegations levelled against petitioners cannot be brushed aside by merely saying that at best it is a case of takeover of AJL and the remedy lies in invoking the provisions of the Company Act,” the high court said.
Referring to Swamy’s complaint the court said the transactions of the Congress with AJL via YI are not mere commercial transactions - these transactions legitimately attract the allegations of cheating, fraud, breach of trust, misappropriation, etc.
On whether Swamy had the locus to make the complaint, the court said: “The plea of locus standi cannot be restricted to typical cases of cheating, misappropriation, etc, as here is a case where the act of office bearers of political party having criminal overtones is under scrutiny and so, the challenge to the locus of respondent- complainant to maintain the complaint in question is hereby repelled.”
The objection to the summoning of Pitroda and Fernandes on the grounds that they reside outside territorial jurisdiction of the trial court was rejected by the HC, which termed it ‘hyper-technical’.
It also termed questionable the manner in which the shares of AJL were acquired by YIL.
The party had loaned Rs 90.25 crore to AJL, publisher of National Herald, and on December 28, 2010, it had assigned this debt to YIL, a charitable company, for Rs 50 lakh.
According to Swamy, this amounted to breach of trust and cheating. The court said the Congress leaders need to explain what was the need to assign the huge debt of Rs 90 crore when this loan could have been repaid by AJL from its sizeable assets of Rs 2,000 crore.
“Even writing off such a huge debt by the Congress can legitimately attract allegations of cheating, fraud, etc. Petitioners had gone a step further in conspiring to get this huge debt assigned to a special purpose vehicle i.e. YI and thereafter, to hijack AJL via YI. Such grave allegations levelled against petitioners cannot be brushed aside lightly by relying upon judicial precedents cited... To say the least, to do so would be preposterous,” the court said.
Read the Petition here.