In a blow to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed their pleas challenging summons issued to them in the National Herald case.
“Petitions are dismissed,” Justice Sunil Gaur said in his judgement while also declining another of their plea for exemption from personal appearance in the lower court.
The development means both Sonia and Rahul will now have to appear before the trial court in connection with the case on Tuesday.
The court also refused to extend the August 6, 2014 interim order by which the summons were stayed.
“No,” Justice Gaur said in response to oral pleas by senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for the accused, that either an exemption from personal appearance be granted or the August 6, 2014 order staying the summons be extended.
The court, in its judgement, also questioned the need for extending interest-free loan to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) – the publishers of National Herald. “Where was need to extend interest free loan,” it said.
Reserving its verdict on the pleas last week, the court had on Friday said that the Congress party could have written off the loan of Rs 90.25 crore owed to it by the publishers of National Herald, instead of assigning it to a charitable company in which some of its leaders are directors.
Justice Gaur had made the observation while reserving judgement on the pleas of the Congress president and the vice president and four others against a trial court order summoning them on a cheating and breach of trust complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
In response, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Gandhis, had said that the loan was assigned to “clean the balance sheets of AJL” and to revive the company so that it can borrow money from the banks and run on its own.
The party had loaned Rs 90.25 crore to AJL and on December 28, 2010, it had assigned this debt to Young Indian Ltd (YIL), the charitable company, for Rs 50 lakh, which, according to Swamy, amounted to breach of trust and cheating.
On his complaint, the trial court had issued summons to Sonia, her son Rahul and five others – Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, general secretary Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and YIL.
Swamy had told the court that the loan was “illegally” given to AJL and its shareholding was “fraudulently obtained” by YIL in order to misappropriate the property of the publication.