In a reprieve for Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others, the Delhi High Court today stayed till August 13 the criminal proceedings before a trial court against them in a case relating to acquiring ownership of National Herald daily.
"Renotify the matters on August 13. Till that time, the impugned order dated June 26, 2014 of the trial court against the accused shall remain stayed," Justice V P Vaish said.
The stay has come as a relief to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others including Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, General Secretary Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey who were asked to appear before a trial court tomorrow.
The court's order came after senior lawyers, Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and Harin Raval, appearing for Sonia, Rahul and Vora respectively, concluded their arguments with the plea that the complaint and summons be quashed as the trial court order was "erroneous" on fact and law as well.
The Congress leaders have challenged a lower court's summoning orders against them on a complaint of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy alleging cheating and misappropriation of funds in the acquisition of the daily by Young Indian (YI).
Pitroda is the only accused who, so far, has not moved the high court as the summons has not been served on him.
Besides Gandhis, Vora is among the directors of Young India which were recently given almost 99 per cent ordinary shares of the Associated Journals Limited (AJL). AJL had been publishing newspapers 'National Herald' in English, "Navjivan" in Hindi and "Quami Awaz" in Urdu.
Sibal and Singhvi, during the arguments, challenged the "locus" of Swamy in filing the complaint saying that the offence of cheating and criminal breach of trust are "compoundable" in nature and it is not the case that the BJP leader is a victim of these alleged crimes.
"This is a case where no single ingredient is being made out against the accused. Not even one element is made out against him (Rahul). The complaint is drafted on completely barred law," Singhvi said.
"There is not even one single aggrieved complainant in this case but Dr Swamy is a hypothetical complainant. As per him (Swamy) the whole world is deceived but there is not a complaint. This is very strange," he said.
Sibal, appearing for the Congress President, sought quashing of the trial court proceedings, saying, "Every finding of the magistrate, on every point, is erroneous.
"This is the most unfortunate proceedings against a party which is seeking to revive a newspaper, which is associated with the Congress party for over 80 years. Courts must be extremely careful in scrutinising such matters," he said.
Former Law Minister refuted Swamy's claim that Sonia and Rahul, who hold majority shares in Young India, have been benefited from the acquisition of AJL as the YI is a charitable firm under Section 25 of the Companies Act.
Such companies do not pay any dividends, salary or any benefit to their shareholders, he said.
Singhvi, who argued after Sibal, gave a chart to the judge to drive home the point that the accused shareholders of YI had no ownership of the properties of AJL as nothing has been transferred to YI.
"All the properties, including the building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg here, are still with the AJL and have not been transferred to YI," he said.
"The properties owned by AJL in Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, and Panchkula are under government leases, except for one property in Lucknow which is under a long-term lease to a charitable eye hospital. The covenants of these properties specifically restrict the disposal of these properties," he said.
Citing an apex court judgement, he alleged that Swamy has been running a "vicious" campaign against Gandhis on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter and they are in public domain.
Swamy had earlier made statements that he wanted to see Gandhis behind the bars, he said.
Singhvi also said Swamy had withheld the information from the trial court about the dismissal of his complaint by the Election Commission in November 2013. The BJP leader had sought de-registration of Congress party.
The court has now fixed the matters for hearing on August 13 when the counsel for Suman Dubey and Swamy will argue their case.
Swamy, however, opposed the stay of trial saying that they should have alleged these pleas in the trial court and now the whole process would be stalled.
While summoning the six as accused in the case, the trial court had held that Swamy has established a prima facie case of cheating, misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust against them.
Swamy had accused Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.
The accused persons were summoned under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property, 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Speaking at the AICC briefing, Singhvi said that after the detailed arguments over two days, the court has given an interim stay of the summoning order issued by the magistrate which required the presence of the six accused tomorrow.
"This interim order is purely an interim order and has been given today evening and the rest of the matter, principally, the complainant's arguments, will be heard in High Court on August 13.
"As a responsible party and responsible counsel, we do not intend to pre-judge matters and comment on the merits," he said.
How many houses does Congress treasurer Motilal Vora have in Delhi?
1. The Lodhi Estate bungalow allotted to Vora in his capacity as Rajya Sabha MP 2. The 79, South Avenue flat, which is under renovation 3. The 49, North Avenue flat 4. The 78 North Avenue flat. This is one of two extra flats confirmed by Vora 5. The 112 North Avenue flat 6. The 139 South Avenue flat, the second flat confirmed by Vora 7. The residing guest opens the door of flat No 507 at V P Hous
Congress treasurer Motilal Vora occupies nine government accommodations in Luytens' Delhi. As a Rajya Sabha member, Vora has been allotted house number 33 in Lodhi Estate.
But in reply to an RTI query, the Rajya Sabha secretariat has confirmed Vora is in possession of six more bungalows and two government flats.
So, is Vora renting out these flats?
House Committee rules allow MPs to rent out accommodations, but only for a specific duration. Former MPs KC Lenka and Dwijender Nath Sharma live in Vora's official VP House accommodation as his guests. In one of the four bungalows in North Avenue, party workers from Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh are living as his guests.
How much is the rent?
While market rates of these houses could be close to a lakh, if you are the guest of an MP, you could stay in posh localities at throwaway prices. For example, the rent for a flat at VP House is about Rs 12,000-15,000. A bungalow in North and South Avenues are rented out at Rs 19,000.
Why should MPs be allowed to rent out accommodations?
MPs can ask for guest accommodations for some prominent people from their constituency for a short duration stay in the capital. However, most of the guests living in these houses are former MPs, who had to vacate their official houses after being are out of power. These guests accommodations are their second homes in Delhi.
Where does Vora stay?
Vora's most recent guest is former Congress MP Raj Babbar. Babbar will move in to 79, South Avenue, which has been under Vora's possession since 2006. It's currently undergoing major renovation. Babbar is the third guest to occupy the bungalow.
Where are the eight other flats?
Vora possesses bungalows 49,63, 78 and 112 in VVIP North Avenue. In South Avenue, he has bungalow numbers 49 and 139. The two avenues are in the vicinity of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Flat numbers 124 and 507 in Vithalbhai Patel House are also allotted to him.
Can an MP possess eight flats?
Any sitting MP can ask for a guest accommodation on a temporary basis. They are allotted to sitting MPs for three months and are then reviewed. As per House Committee guidelines, guest accommodations can be extended up to six months. Vora also has guest accommodations. Only, he has eight of them.
Who are the other MPs having so many guest accommodations?
Out of the 46 houses being occupied by guests, Vora has the highest number of guests. MPs Janardan Dwivedi, Anand Shrama and union ministers Arun Jaitely and Nejma Neptulla also have accommodated
one guest in Delhi.
So, is the govt taking any action against Vora?
The Rajya Sabha secretariat, through the Directorate of Estates, has sent eviction notice to Vora for getting the premises vacated. However, when dna visited two sites where eviction notices have been
served, they continued to be occupied by his guests.
Finally, what's Vora saying?
He has rubbished the RTI and denied possessing eight houses. "I have only 78 North Avenue and 139 South Avenue allotted in my name. For the rest, I have no information," he said.
"The accused claim that the said assets have not been transferred to Young India."
Yeah!! They just got 99% of shares of AJL that control all the assets. They did not directly get the assets but have a buffer in between. Big whoop!!
"So Question of Gandhi"s getting control of 2000 crore assets of National Herald is unsubstantiated."
Just because a murder accused claims he did not murder does not mean the charge is unsubstantiated. What matters is what the judge thinks. Nothing else.
The accused claim that the said assets have not been transferred to Young India.So Question of Gandhi"s getting control of 2000 crore assets of National Herald is unsubstantiated.
The Question which needs answer is why and how did Congress give a Loan from funds collected without paying IT From Public.
Congress will lose its exemption from paying Income Tax.
Headline is misleading. The case has simply been postponed to a different date. Swamy has to present his rebuttal and then a judgement has to come. Only if the judgement is favorable to Sonia can it be called relief.