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Centre opposes AJL’s appeal against its eviction from Herald House, says it transferred shares ‘clandestinely’

The court was hearing the AJL appeal challenging the December 21, 2018, order of a single judge, dismissing its plea against the Union Government's October 30 decision to take over the ‘Herald House’ building

The Central Government on Monday, opposing an appeal against the single judge order, asking National Herald publisher AJL to vacate its premises, told the Delhi High court that AJL has ‘clandestinely’ transferred its majority shares to Young India (YI), in which Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are shareholders.

Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, appearing before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said that the land was allocated to AJL on lease for a printing press and this “dominant purpose” was stopped several years back and that AJL had clandestinely transferred the property to Young Indian.

Mehta also informed the court that AJL had violated the lease agreement and revived the National Herald only after the Centre had sent a notice for inspection of the property in September 2016.

The court was hearing the AJL appeal challenging the December 21, 2018, order of a single judge, dismissing its plea against the Union Government’s October 30 decision to take over the ‘Herald House’ building in Delhi belonging to the Congress mouthpiece National Herald for violations of the specified conditions on which the land was allocated.

The single-judge bench in its order on December 21, had also noted that by transferring AJL’s 99 per cent shares to Young Indian company, the beneficial interest of AJL’s property worth Rs 413.40 crore stands clandestinely transferred to the Young Indian company.

Defending AJL, senior advocate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, argued that AJL could not be penalised for a “small hiatus” in publication after 2008 due to a financial crunch considering its history of publishing newspaper since 1938.

The High court has set the next date of hearing on February 1.

National Herald scam is one of the most notable legal cases in Indian history since the Gandhis are directly accused. Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia, along with their aides – Oscar Fernandez, Motilal Vohra and Sam Pithroda are alleged to have involved in massive ‘cheating and breach of trust’ in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) by Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YIL), as assets worth crores of rupees had been allegedly transferred for purposes other than originally intended for a paltry sum. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi got unconditional bail in December 2015.

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