Tussle between Subramanian Swamy, Kapil Sibal over National Herald hearing in SC

NEW DELHI: Congress lawyer Kapil Sibal on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to hear the National Herald case on its scheduled date of February 12 despite Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy telling the court that he is unavailable for proceedings till February 19.

The Congress is seeking a stay on the proceedings at a trial court.

Earlier, Swamy had given consent for February 12 for hearing at the apex court. The Supreme Court will now decide on listing the matter.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had earlier moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi High Court decision that dismissed their appeals seeking a quashing of summons issued to them by a trial court in connection with the National Herald case.

Swamy had alleged that both had cheated and created a breach of trust in the acquisition of the now-defunct National Herald by Young Indian Limited (YIL).

On June 26, last year, the trial court issued summons to them on Swamy’s allegations of ‘cheating’ in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) by Young India Ltd (YIL) — a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi own 38 per cent stakes each.

The Delhi High Court had in December 2015 rejected their plea and directed them to appear before the trial court.

The case relates to the Indian National Congress granting an interest-free loan of Rs. 90.25 crore (US $13 million) to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), owner of the National Herald newspaper which was established by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938.

It was alleged that the loan was either not repaid or repaid in cash, which is in violation of Section 269T of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

A closely held company, Young Indian, was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs.5 lakh (USD 7,400) and it acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL and all its properties (alleged to be worth Rs.5000 crores (USD 740 million).

Swamy filed the case alleging criminal misappropriation by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The courts have determined that a prima facie case has been established in the matter.