- Court says place not being used for the purpose it was leased out for
- It says petitioners silent on circulation of newspaper across the country
- Government said no press functioning in the premises since last 10 years
The publisher of the Congress-linked National Herald newspaper was ordered today to vacate its headquarters in Delhi by the High court, which said the place was not being used for the purpose it was leased out for. Associated Journals limited, which owns National Herald, had challenged a government order on October 30 cancelling its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate Herald House.
The court asked Associated Journals to vacate the building in central Delhi's ITO area within two weeks and said the company had been "hijacked" clandestinely by a company set up by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
"The dominant purpose for which the premises were leased out to the petitioners no longer exists," said the court, 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 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.
Associated Journal lawyers have told NDTV they will challenge the order.