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National Herald case: Supreme Court stays Delhi HC eviction order against Associated Journals

BusinessToday.In     April 5, 2019

In a major relief to the Gandhi family in the National Herald case, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court's eviction order against Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) owned by Young India (YI), in which Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi hold a majority stake.

During the hearing, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre's Land and Development Office (L&DO) on an appeal of AJL against the High Court order, news agency PTI has reported.

The government reportedly told the apex court that the "corporate veil" has to be seen in the case. To this, Chief Justice Gogoi said, "It is just another car for us".

"The question we have to decide is whether the transfer of shares amounts to transfer of lease," the court quoted as saying this.

The Associated Journals, the publisher of Congress mouth piece National Herald, had filed a plea in the Supreme Court to cancel a Delhi High Court order in February which stated that it must vacate the office. The high court had also rejected a request by AJL to stop the government from taking any "coercive steps" to vacate its premises at Herald House in the national capital region.

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On December 21, 2018, the Delhi High Court ordered AJL to vacate its premises within two weeks, holding there was no mala fide in the Centre's eviction order.

The Centre and Land and Development Office (L&DO) had said in their order that no press has been functioning in the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leader Subramanian Swamy had alleged that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi set up a company to buy debts worth Rs 90 crore owed by AJL. Founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, AJL had issued fresh shares of the company to Young India Ltd (YIL) in 2010 for taking over the formers' debt of Rs 90.25 crore. The allegation against Congress party is that it loaned Rs 90.25 crore to AJL in December 2010 and subsequently assigned this debt to Young Indian Ltd (YIL) for a paltry Rs 50 lakh and in doing so, transferred shares of AJL worth Rs 2,000 crore to Young India.

Edited by Chitranjan Kumar

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