New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court order rejecting their plea against their summoning by a trial court here in the National Herald case filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
Besides challenging the high court’s December 7, 2015 order, both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have sought the stay of the proceedings before the trial court till their plea was decided by the top court and the grant of exemption from personal appearance before the lower court.
“Stay the proceedings of complaint case under sections 403, 406, 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, pending in the court of the metropolitan magistrate, till the disposal of the present SLP,” read the prayer in the petition by Sonia Gandhi.
Both the Gandhis have sought exemption from personal appearance before the trial court but said that they would appear before the trial court as and when “desired by the magistrate in accordance with law.”
Apart from the Gandhis, accused Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey have also moved the apex court against the high court order.
The Congress leaders have also challenged the high court order on the grounds of it going into the merits of the case and making adverse observations.
In her petition, Sonia Gandhi says that on “one hand, the high court holds that the actions of the accused ‘smacks of criminality’, and in the same breath goes on to hold that ‘what species of criminal offence is made out is not required to be seen at this initial stage'”.
The approach “is untenable in law. It is submitted that ‘criminality’ cannot be divorced from the offences prescribed under the Penal Code. If the ingredients of the offences alleged are not at all made out even prima facie, there cannot be any ‘criminality'”, she said in her plea.
On the question of locus of Swamy in the matter, the Congress leader has pointed out that “interestingly, a single judge (of the high court) himself raised the question of locus standi. Even before the petitioners went ahead with their arguments, the complainant was asked to assist in the matter qua the issue of locus standi”.
The high court had rejected the plea of Gandhis, as well as Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, Gandhi family friend Dubey and party leader Oscar Fernandes against the summons issued by the trial court on June 26, 2015 on Swamy’s complaint alleging “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) by Young India Ltd. (YIL) – “a firm in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake”.
Swamy had claimed that both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, as majority shareholders of YIL, benefited from the acquisition of AJL.
He had alleged that AJL had received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and that the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs.50 lakh.
At the time, AJL, which had Vora as its chairman, claimed that it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.
The Congress, while challenging the summons before the high court, had contended that Swamy was a political opponent and the criminal proceedings were initiated only with an intent to secure an oblique political objective. They had contended that the complaint made by Swamy against them was only “allegations without any supporting proof”.