National

The nitty-gritty of ‘The National Herald’ case

The 27-page judgment of the Delhi High Court in The National Herald case reveals no political vendetta.

In fact, the High Court on December 7 seems to have dismissed the petitions of the Congress leaders in order to give them a fair chance to clear the name of the “legendary national party.”

Justice Gaur writes that the case is “one of its kind” where the probity of a party of Congress's national stature is under scanner.

The High Court explains that it is too early to go into what “species of criminal offence is made out at this initial stage.” But it adds that it would be “preposterous” to deny criminality in transactions that, it feels, has left lakhs of citizens who donated to the party cheated.”

Here is The National Herald case in sum and substance as per court records:

Associated Journals Private Limited (AJL), a public limited company with immovable assets, formally closed printing and publication of newspapers like The National Herald, etc, in April 2008. At the time, it owed the Congress an accumulated debt of Rs. 90 crore the party had loaned it on interest free basis from time to time. This debt is considered an asset to the Congress.

The Congress declares that AJL has negative worth. It assigned the Rs. 90 crore debt owed to it by AJL to a charitable private company called Young Indian Private Company, which has a share capital of just Rs. 5 lakh. Accused Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi own 38 per cent shares each of the Young Indian. The private charitable company pays the Congress a sum of Rs. 50 lakh as consideration for transferring the Rs. 90 crore debt to it.

In December 2010, a large chunk of share equity in AJL goes to Young Indian in lieu of the Rs. 90 crore. The shareholding of the original 761 shareholders is reduced to 1 percent.

AJL eventually ends up becoming a wholly owned company of Young Indian, which did it by buying the Rs. 90 crore debt from the Congress for a mere Rs. 50 lakh.

Young Indian acquires complete control of AJL which has real estate assets of at least Rs. 2,000 crore in prime areas of New Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Mumbai, Indore, Patna, Panchkula and other places. The conservative real estate worth of AJL is calculated at Rs. 5,000 crore.

Having possession of the vast real estate, the Young Indian declares that it will not engage in publishing a newspaper, including The National Herald, as it is against its declared objective.

National Herald House, a prime property in Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg given by the government for the purpose of publishing a newspaper at concessional rates, is used for commercial renting purposes.

The alleged nexus as per judgment: the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi), vice-president (Rahul Gandhi), general secretary (Motilal Vora), treasurer (Oscar Fernandes) are directors and shareholders of Young Indian. Mr. Vora and Mr. Fernandes are the Directors of AJL, while Mr. Vora is also the Chairman of AJL.

Accused number five and six are Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda, who are both directors of Young Indian and AJL. The last accused is the company, Young Indian.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 9:30:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/The-nitty-gritty-of-%E2%80%98The-National-Herald%E2%80%99-case/article10043545.ece

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