New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi, dismissing allegations of "cheating" in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. by Young Indian Ltd. as "without proof", Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that it was done to revive the loss-making publishing company set up to disseminate the policy and principles of the party.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Gandhi, sought to quash the proceeding initiated by a lower court here against her, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and four others, saying the complaint made by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy against them was only "allegations without any supporting proof".
Sibal refuted Swamy's claim that Sonia and her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, as the majority shareholders of YIL, had benefited from the acquisition by giving indirect ownership and control over AJL's real estate worth thousands of crores.
"YIL is a section 25 company and therefore there is no dividend given to the shareholders. It all goes to charity," Sibal argued.
The response filed by the Congress chief said: "The properties owned by AJL in Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, and Panchkula are under government leases, except for one property in Lucknow which is under a long-term lease to a charitable eye hospital. The covenants of these properties specifically restrict the disposal of these properties."
Sibal also argued that the Election Commission (EC) had in November 2013 dismissed a similar complaint made by Swamy, in which he had sought Congress' de-recognition for giving an unsecured loan to a private company. He cited a judgment relating to the BJP in which a five-judge tribunal had said that a political party can do business activity on the condition that it pays the appropriate taxes.
"Law says political parties can do business activity irrespective of their constitutions, provided the taxes are paid," he said.
Apart from the Gandhis, Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vohra and family friend Suman Dubey have sought to quash the proceedings initiated against them by a trial court here.
Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ramesh Gupta, and former additional solicitor general Harin Rawal were present in the court representing the Congress leaders.
On June 26, the trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders for Aug 7 on a complaint by Swamy alleging "cheating" in the acquisition of the AJL, the publisher of now defunct National Herald newspaper, by YI Ltd - "a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake".
As the argument remained inconclusive, Justice V.P. Vaish posted the matter for further hearing for Wednesday, when Swamy is expected to give his counter arguments.
Filing the plea, the Congress leaders said that Swamy is a political opponent and present criminal proceedings have been initiated only with intent to secure an oblique political objective.
Swamy 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.