The publisher of the National Herald newspaper is not going to be evicted from its office for now, said the Supreme Court today. The court was hearing a request by the Associated Journals, the publisher of National Herald, so as to cancel a Delhi High Court order in February.
The high court had rejected a request by Associated Journals to stop the government from taking any “coercive steps” to vacate.
During today’s hearing, the government told the court that the “corporate veil” has to be seen in the case. To this, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who headed the bench, said, “It is just another case for us”.
“The question we have to decide is whether the transfer of shares amounts to transfer of lease,” the court said.
The government had told the high court in February that no press had been functioning in the premises for at least 10 years and it had been used only for commercial purposes, in violation of its lease. The government, in October last year, cancelled the publisher’s 56-year-old lease for the building in Delhi’s ITO and asked it to vacate Herald House.
On December 21, 2018, the Delhi High Court asked Associated Journals Limited to vacate the premises within two weeks, after which eviction proceedings would be initiated.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had alleged that Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi – the Congress president – set up a company to buy debts worth Rs. 90 crore owed by Associated Journals, which publishes three newspapers including National Herald, founded by Jawaharlal Nehru – Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather – before he became India’s first prime minister.
In 2008, Associated Journals had shut down over its debts. The BJP alleges that the Gandhis used Congress party funds to pay off its debts even though the publisher has real estate assets worth thousands of crores.
In November last year, National Herald tweeted that it was being targeted by the BJP government for its growing digital presence.
Subramanian Swamy had filed a case in 2012 against then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, alleging irregularities related to a loan of Rs. 90 crore given by the Congress to the AJL.