The publisher of the Congress-linked National Herald newspaper approached the Delhi High Court today against an order to vacate Herald House in Delhi. In its application, Associated Journals Ltd or AJL asked the court to order an immediate stay on the earlier order in the interest of "justice".
The court is expected to hear the matter on January 9.
A single bench of the Delhi High Court had refused to stay the government order on October 30 cancelling its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the building in central Delhi's ITO area within two weeks. "The dominant purpose for which the premises were leased out to the petitioners no longer exists," said the court in its order on December 21, adding that the petitioners had not revealed the circulation of the newspaper, in print and online.
The government had told the court that no press had been functioning in the premises for at least 10 years and it had been used only for commercial purposes, in violation of its lease.
What is known as the "National Herald case" is described by the BJP as a prime example of corruption by the Congress and the Gandhi family.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy alleges that Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi - the Congress president - set up "Young Indian" to buy debts worth Rs. 90 crore owed by Associated Journals, which publishes three newspapers including National Herald founded by Jawaharlal Nehru - Rahul Gandhi's great-grandfather - before he became India's first prime minister. The Gandhis are major stakeholders in Young Indian, which the Congress said was a non-profit organisation and therefore should get tax relief.
"This court is conscious of the fact that Young Indian is a charitable company, but modus operandi to acquire 99% of AJL (Associated Journal's) shares speaks volumes. The manner in which it has been done is also questionable," the court said, in a huge legal blow to the Congress and the Gandhis.
On Associated Journals arguing in its petition that with the eviction order, the government was targeting it for political reasons, the court said: "One fails to understand as to how the ruling dispensation has in any way erased, effaced or defamed Pandit Nehru."
In 2008, Associated Journals had shut down over its debts. The BJP alleges that the Gandhis used Congress party funds to pay off its debts even though the publisher has real estate assets worth thousands of crores.
In 2012, Subramanian Swamy filed a case against Sonia Gandhi - then Congress president - and Rahul Gandhi, alleging irregularities related to Rs. 90 crore loaned by the Congress to Associated Journals.