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SC refuses to quash criminal proceedings against GandhisCongress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. — PTI file photo
National Herald Case

SC refuses to quash criminal proceedings against Gandhis

Grants personal exemption, expunges HC's adverse remarks12 Feb 2016 | 5:26 PM

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to quash the criminal proceedings against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald assets misappropriation case, but expunged the Delhi High Court’s adverse remarks against them and exempted them from personal appearance in the trial court.

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R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, February 12

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to quash the criminal proceedings against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald assets misappropriation case, but expunged the Delhi High Court’s adverse remarks against them and exempted them from personal appearance in the trial court.

A Bench comprising Justices JS Khehar and C. Nagappan also allowed the Gandhis to question the logic behind the case by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the trial court at the time of framing of charges.

The Gandhis were eminent people and would not “run away” from the trial and as such there was no need for their personal presence in the court. Further, their presence in the trial court would cause more inconvenience than convenience for holding the proceedings.

Observing that the HC remarks on the merits of the case would “prejudice the trial,” the apex court it was expunging the HC comments. “Let there be a fair trial,” the Bench said.

Gandhis’ counsel pleaded that no way their clients benefitted from Young India Ltd (YIL) acquiring majority shareholdings of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL).  YIL, in which the Gandhis and other Congress leaders were directors, was a Section 25 company, akin to a society, and as such its shareholders did not get any dividend, salary or other benefits, including a share in the profit, 

Arguing for the Gandhis, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, AM Singhvi and RS Cheema said Swamy’s complaint did not have the “ingredients of cheating and breach of trust” as required under law for proceeding against them. No shareholder, party worker or leader had levelled any allegations against them, while Swamy had no locus standi in the case as there was no victim or perpetrator.

The other accused in the case are Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey.

In the light of today’s SC order, none of them would have to appear in the trial court on February 20, the next date of hearing. The apex court, however, granted liberty to Swamy to plead for their appearance in the trial court, if there was any specific requirement.

According to Swamy’s complaint, the Gandhis had formed IYL in 2010 with 38 per cent share each to take control of Rs 2,000 crore worth of assets of AJL, which was the publisher of the National Herald newspaper.

The Congress leaders had challenged the HC judgment on December 7, rejecting their plea against their trial.

Former Law Minister and Congress leader Ashwani Kumar said the expunction of the HC’s remarks had vindicated the stand of the party and their leaders that the case against them was a moral victory for them.

 

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