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Last Updated : Apr 05, 2019 06:29 PM IST | Source: PTI

National Herald case: SC stays Delhi HC decision asking AJL to vacate building

Granting relief to the top Congress leaders, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre's Land and Development Office (L&DO) on the AJL plea and sought their response within four weeks.

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court order asking Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of Congress mouth piece 'National Herald', to vacate the Herald House building here. AJL moved the apex court against the high court order which dismissed its plea to restrain the Centre from taking any "coercive steps" for vacating the premises at Herald House in ITO area in the heart of the national capital.

The high court had held that the entire transaction of transferring shares of AJL to Young Indian (YI) company, in which Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia are majority shareholders, was a "clandestine and surreptitious transfer of the lucrative interest in premises" to YI.

Granting relief to the top Congress leaders, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre's Land and Development Office (L&DO) on the AJL plea and sought their response within four weeks.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, questioned the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for L&DO, as to how the alleged "clandestine" transfer of shares of AJL to YI, in which the Gandhis' have controlling stake, amounted to violation of lease agreement.

"The question is will this amount to violation of lease agreement. We will have to examine. Issue Notice and stay (on eviction)," the bench ordered.

AJL has also sought in the top court setting aside of the Centre's October 30, 2018 order ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises on the grounds that no printing or publishing activity was going on and building was being used only for commercial purposes.

The high court had on February 28 dismissed the plea of AJL and had said there has been "misuse" of lease conditions.

The AJL's plea said that the present political dispensation in power at the Centre has never hidden its pathological hatred for Nehruvian ideals.

"One of their favourite propaganda is to blame Pandit Nehru for almost everything that ails the nation. The eviction proceedings constitute a malicious step in the larger design of defaming and effacing the legacy of Pandit Nehru," it said.

The Centre and L&DO had said in their order that no press has been functioning on the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

The AJL had denied the allegations in its petitions filed in the high court and in apex court.

The appeal in the top court said the determination of the lease deed is malicious, arbitrary, based on extraneous grounds, and has been effected for political considerations contrary to the express provisions of the lease deed itself.

It had said that the high court's several findings have been rendered based on oral arguments of the Centre and a list of dates handed over at the time of arguments without there being a single affidavit placed on record by the official-respondents (Centre).

The high court had agreed with the Centre's submission, that the breach had been continuing from 2008 till commencement of the digital publication of the newspaper on November 14, 2016.

The L&DO had ended the lease, entered into with the AJL on August 2, 1962 and made perpetual on January 10, 1967, asking the company to hand over the possession by November 15, 2018.

In its plea, the AJL had also said the digital versions of English newspaper National Herald, Hindi's Navjivan and Urdu's Qaumi Awaz have commenced from 2016-17.

The weekly newspaper 'National Herald on Sunday' resumed on September 24, 2017, and the place of publication was the ITO premises, the AJL had said, adding the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was being published since October last year from the same premises.
First Published on Apr 5, 2019 06:26 pm
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