Court summons Sonia, Rahul in National Herald land grab case

A Delhi court has summoned Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi in connection with the National Herald land grab case.

The case involves misappropriation of funds of the now-defunct newspaper.

The Patiala House Court has directed Sonia and Rahul to appear before it on 7 August.

Metropolitian magistrate Gomati Manocha issued the summons on a criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy alleging cheating and misappropriation of funds in securing ownership of the now-defunct daily National Herald.

"I have found prima facie evidence against all the accused. The court has directed them to appear before it on August 7," the magistrate said while issuing the summons.

The court also summoned five others, including Congress leaders Oscar Fernandes and Motilal Vora, Sam Pitroda and former journalist Suman Dubey, the other directors of Young Indian Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 to take over possession of the property of National Herald, a newspaper started by late Jawaharlal Nehru.

Young Indian, which was incorporated as a media company, took over the "debt" of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald, and through it its property as well.

The National Herald newspaper was established in 1938 by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was shut down in 2008.

Speaking to reporters after the court issued the summons, Subramanian Swamy said the signatures of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi prove their involvement in the case.

"It is important for the court to take the passports of Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi so that they do not run away from the country before the hearing in the court," added Swamy.

The case involves Rs2,000 crore worth of property belonging to the National Herald, which was grabbed by Congress leaders using fraudulent papers, Swamy said.

According to Swami, the Congress party had colluded in the misappropriation of the property by lending Young Indian, a company set up by Rahul Gandhi, Rs90 crore– an illegal transaction as a political party cannot lend money.

This is a case of fraud and breach of trust, and the duo can be sentenced to anywhere between seven years and life term, the BJP leader said.

Rahul Gandhi had earlier threatened to file defamation case against Swamy for raising the issue in 2012. Gandhi had described the charges as "scandalous abuse" and "as utterly false, baseless and defamatory".

The Congress party refused to say anything on the issue, stating that it has not heard from the court so far.

''In the National Herald matter the persons named have not received any papers or information from the court so far. They will seek legal advice and do the needful,'' the All India Congress Committee (AICC) said in a statement.