- What is ‘National Herald’?
In the pre-Independence period, on September 9, 1938, Jawahar Lal Nehru founded a company in Lucknow called Associated Journals Private Limited (AJL) to publish a newspaper called National Herald. Many big and small shareholders had contributed Rs 89 Lakhs to AJL’s capital. National Herald was used to spread the ideas and agenda of the Congress party as Nehru himself was not only editor but also Managing Director of the company. Feroze Gandhi was Managing Editor from 1946 to 1950 when Nehru became the Prime Minister. Later, Indira Gandhi had a direct control over the company. Since 1968, along with Lucknow, National Herald started its Delhi edition. Besides the English daily, AJL also published Kaumi Ekta and Nav Jeevan, Urdu and Hindi editions respectively. With headquarters called ‘Herald House’ at Bahadur Shah Jafar Marg in New Delhi, the AJL has real estate assets in prime areas of Lucknow, Bhopal, Mumbai, Indore, Patna, Panchkula and other places, which are expected to be real estate worth of AJL is 5,000/- crores. Though the company was formed with shareholdings, indirect control remained with the Congress party and Nahru-Gandhi Family.
- Why was National Herald closed down?
In 1998, Lucknow edition of National Herald was closed due to financial crunch. In fact, some of the assets were also liquidated with the court orders to clear the loans. In January 2008, when Congress-led UPA was in power, the then Chief Editor of National Herald T V Venkatachalam, formally declared the closure of the newspaper. The reason given was mismanagement and lack of funds.
- What is the role of the Congress Party?
When AJL had closed the printing and publication of National Herald in the year 2008, it owed a debt of 90 crores to the Congress Party. Although this debt had accumulated over a period of time, this huge unpaid debt was outcome of interest free loans extended by the Congress Party to AJL from time to time. AJL was a Public Limited Company, which had immovable assets having value of crores of rupees and 1057 shareholders till 2010.
- What is Young Indian Pvt Limited?
In Nov 2010, a trust co named ‘Young Indian’ was formed with capital of just Rs 5 lakh. As per the records accused No. 1-Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, who is accused No.2 in the case, owned 38% each of the shares i.e. 76% of Young Indian Company, balance 24% held by two family retainers, Motilal Vohra and Oscar Fernandez. Congress Party had assigned the huge debt of 90 crores to a Section 25 Company i.e. Young Indian on receiving a paltry amount of 50 lakh only.
- What are the allegations?
As per the complaint accused Nos. 1 and 2, that is Sonia and Rahul had hatched criminal conspiracy with their loyalists, to defraud the Congress Party and AJL by dubiously forming YI Company to misappropriate the huge assets of AJL. The debt which AJL owed to Congress Party now stood transferred to Young Indian which was formed in November, 2010. Thus, AJL became a wholly owned company of YI by merely paying 50 lacs and in this manner, YI acquired complete control of AJL. So there are allegations of cheating, fraud and criminal misappropriations under Sections 403, 406 and 420 read with Section 120-B of IPC. Besides Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernades, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and the Young Indian Company are the accused in the case.
- Is it a political case?
It is an individual complaint filed by Dr Subramanian Swamy along with a Charted Accountant MR Ventakesh, an official from Registrar of Companies-Gulab Chand and J Gopikrishnan associated with The Pioneer. A trial court after recording pre-summoning evidence of the complainant has summoned as accused No. 1 to 7 for the offences vide impugned order of June 26, 2014, which was challenged by the accused in the high court. Incidentally, the complaint is registered in 2012, much before BJP led government came to power and Dr Subramanian Swamy joined the BJP.
- What does court say?
The honourable High Court judgement clearly states three point:
Probity of a legendary National Political Party is under scanner in these petitions. The allegations against the Office Bearers of the Congress Party are of siphoning off the party funds in a clandestine manner. The impropriety of extending interest free loans to a separate legal entity i.e. AJL, which is a Public Limited Company, by the Congress Party is a matter of concern in a democratic set up, particularly, when the source of Congress Party’s fund is largely from donations given by public and so, any citizen can legitimately question the siphoning off funds by Political Party.
The modus operandi adopted by petitioners in taking control of AJL via Special Purpose Vehicle i.e. YI, particularly, when the main persons in Congress Party, AJL and YI are the same, evidences a criminal intent,
- What does the Congress say?
Congress on the one hand is claiming full faith in thelegal system while alleging government of political vendetta.
(With inputs from
Surya Prakash Semwal)