New Delhi, Giving a brief relief to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi and others in the National Herald newspaper case, a court approved their inability to appear in court on Tuesday but asked them to be present on December 19.
The Congress, however, accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of running a political vendetta against it, saying there was nothing illegal done by them and it will fight it out in the court of law.
The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the plea of the Gandhis to quash the summons issued to them by a trial court on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s complaint regarding the acquisition of National Herald and asked them to appear before trial court on Tuesday.
On June 26 last year, the trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders on Swamy’s complaint about “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) by Young India Ltd. (YIL) – “a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake”.
Appearing for the Gandhis on Tuesday, Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that both were willing to appear but the Delhi High Court order was received late and thus moved an application to seek exemption from appearance for the Gandhis for the day.
Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, counsel for another accused,m Sam Pitroda, former chairman of National Innovation Council, while seeking exemption from appearance for his client, told the court that his client lives in the US and needs time to reach India.
Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, Gandhis’ family friend Suman Dubey and another party leader, Oscar Fernandes, were also granted exemption.
Complainant Swamy opposed their plea for exemption.
During a previous hearing in the case, the trial court said that the Young India Ltd. (YIL) appeared to have been “created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use” or a special purpose vehicle to acquire control over AJL assets worth Rs.2,000 crore.
Swamy alleged the AJL received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs.50 lakh.
At that time, AJL with Vora as its chairman allegedly said it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.
Accusing the BJP of running a political vendetta against it, the Congress said it did not do anything illegal and will fight it out in the court of law.
“National Herald newspaper has been part of Congress’ legacy ever since it came into being. The party helped it by giving it loans as and when required, and there was nothing wrong in it,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said at a press conference here in Parliament House complex.
He said he along with fellow Congress leader Singhvi was present before the court earlier in the day and requested the judge to give a date and time so that the party leaders could appear before it.
“I was there from 10.30 to 11.30 a.m. We requested the court that the accused Congress leaders want to appear before it and it could give date and time according to its convenience,” Singhvi said.
He said it was the court’s decision to fix December 19 as the date for the Congress leaders to appear before it.
Both the senior lawyers, Sibal and Singhvi argued that giving loan to a company cannot be a criminal activity.
“Filing such cases show that government’s fear that it cannot defeat the Congress, and people like Subramanian Swamy have been kept in the BJP for such acts,” Sibal said.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders and workers held a protest march from Teen Murti to 7 Race Course Road in New Delhi area over the issue.