Unconditional bail for Sonia and Rahul in National Herald case

Next hearing on Feb 20, no exemption sought from personal appearance

GN Bureau | December 19, 2015



Photo: Arun Kumar

The Patiala House court on Saturday granted unconditional bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. Then the court in New Delhi posted the hearing of   high-profile National Herald case for February 20.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh filed the bail bond on behalf of Sonia and for Rahul’s bail his sister Priyanka Vadra did the needful.

The heavily secure Patiala House court saw virtually the entire Congress leadership attending the proceedings in solidarity and make a huge political statement.

Hundreds of Congress workers raised slogans against the BJP and the government as the party leaders walked inside.

Congress lawyer Kapil Sibal said “the Gandhis have not asked for future exemptions from court appearance.”

Sibal said complainant Subramanian Swamy opposed the bail, requesting for some conditions to be set. Swamy suggested that the passports of the accused should be impounded but the court ignored his request. Congress lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi added: “It is sad that Swamy had asked for such a condition against people who are such prominent personalities. We are thankful that the court rejected Swamy’s request.”

The relief to the top Congress leadership came at the end of a feverish Saturday, which saw the party and the BJP trade charges against each other. While the Congress alleged "vendetta" and called Swamy prime minister Narendra Modi's "mask", Swamy dismissed the attack as another Congress "drama".

In 2012, Swamy had filed the case accusing Sonia, Rahul and the others - Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda - of cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring the ownership of now-defunct daily, National Herald.

The National Herald newspaper, founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, was closely associated with India's freedom struggle and the Indian National Congress until 2008. On April 1, 2008, the paper's editorial announced that it was temporarily suspending its operations.

Before its closure, the paper was run by Associated Journals Limited (AJL). In 2009, Sonia ordered the closure of the defunct paper.

On June 26 last year, a trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders on Swamy's complaint about "cheating" in the acquisition of AJL by Young India Limited, a firm in which Sonia and Rahul each own a 38 per cent stake.

The two leaders then approached the Delhi high court seeking a stay. On Monday this week, the high court refused to stay the summons, and asked all of the accused to appear for a hearing on Saturday.

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