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Sonia, Rahul get bail in Herald case

After a 10-minute hearing, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were on Saturday granted unconditional bail in the high-voltage National Herald case by a local court where they appeared along with an army of top party leaders.

Facing a private criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the transfer of shares of the defunct party newspaper Herald to a newly-created company, the two Gandhis, accompanied by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh besides Priyanka Gandhi appeared before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen at 2.50 pm.

The party’s legal eagles Kapil Sibal, Ashwini Kumar, both former Union Law Ministers, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as also top Congress leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, A K Antony, Sheila Dikshit, Ambika Soni and Meira Kumar were at hand. Sonia, Rahul and three other accused in the case — Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey — sought bail which was granted after they furnished personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety each. One of the accused Sam Pitroda was not present as he was stated to be unwell.

Swamy pressed the court to impose conditions on the foreign travel of the accused, which was not accepted by the court. He said later that he had not opposed the bail but had told the court that conditions should be imposed on the Gandhis’ travel abroad since they “were in the habit of running away from the country”.

The magistrate fixed February 20 as the next date of hearing and the proceedings were over within minutes after which the Gandhis came out smiling. They had to navigate through jostling lawyers, journalists, security men and party workers to reach their cars.

Later addressing the media at the party office, Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of levelling “false allegations” against them and making “full use” of government agencies to “deliberately target” the Opposition.

“We will continue the fight and not bow down,” they said.

“The accused are reputed persons having deep political grassroots and there is no apprehension that they will flee,” the Magistrate noted while granting them bail on furnishing personal bond of Rs 50,000 each and one surety. While Antony gave surety to Sonia, Priyanka stood surety for her brother.

Congress leader B K Hariprasad gave surety for Vora, Ghulam Nabi Azad for Fernandes and Ajay Maken for Dubey.

Sibal and Singhvi told the court that these are people who have deep roots in society and they hold high office and do not have any previous charge against them.

The summons were issued by the court on December 8 after the Delhi high court the previous day had refused to quash the summons issued to them earlier to appear as accused.

Both Sibal and Singhvi told reporters after the proceedings that the court rejected Swamy’s plea and gave bail to the leaders.

“It is most unfortunate that Swamy sought imposition of conditions including restrictions on travel abroad but the court granted unconditional bail,” Singhvi said.

“I don’t see the slightest reason for dissatisfaction with the court order,” he added.

The Magistrate made it clear that no exemption from personal appearance will be granted to any accused for the next date of hearing. The judge, who held the proceedings in a closed room, asked Swamy to bring all relied upon documents in support of his complaint on the next date of hearing.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned 

under Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. 

Congress may approach SC seeking expunction of HC judge remarks
Congress may approach the Supreme Court seeking expunction of some adverse remarks made by the Delhi high court in the National Herald Case in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are among the accused. Party sources said that approaching the Apex Court was being considered only for the limited purpose pertaining to the remarks made by Justice Sunil Gaur and there are no plans to seek stay of the proceedings in the lower court. The high court had made scathing observations on the 
“questionable conduct” of Gandhis regarding how they took control of the publication.

While rejecting the plea of Gandhis for quashing of the summons against them, Justice Gaur had observed: “After having considered the entire case in its proper perspective, this court finds no hesitation to put it on record that the modus operandi adopted by petitioners in taking control of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) via special purpose vehicle i.e. Young India Ltd (YIL), particularly, when the main persons in Congress party, AJL and YIL are the same, evidences a criminal intent.

“Whether it is cheating, criminal misappropriation or criminal breach of trust is not required to be spelt out at this nascent stage. “In any case, by no stretch of imagination, it can be said that no case for summoning petitioners as accused in the complaint in question is made out. Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage,” the judge had said in his 27-page order. 

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