Highlights

  • Rahul appears before ED in National Herald case
  • Hundreds walked with Rahul to the ED office
  • Delhi Police had imposed Section 144 around Congress office

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Hundreds of Congress workers joined former party chief Rahul Gandhi as he marched to the Enforcement directorate office in New Delhi. 

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NATIONAL HERALD CASE EXPLAINED

“Yet the past is ever with us and all that we are and that we have comes from the past. We are its products and we live immersed in it”

― Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India


Perhaps it was this thought, that pushed our first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru to launch the Associated Journals ten years before India attained freedom at midnight.

A year later, the Associated Journals, which was a public limited company, published National Herald newspaper for the first time.

From chronicling India’s independence movement to facing accusations of being a Congress mouthpiece, the publication shut shop in 2008 when the United Progressive Alliance was in power.

Two years later, the Congress in a bid to revive the defunct newspaper formed a not-for-profit company, called the Young India Ltd with UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi owning the majority share.

The ostensible reason for setting up the new public company being the revival of the National Herald, the Congress argued that the resurrection was needed as the publication had played a significant role in the freedom movement.

So how did the Congress plan the revival of National Herald and why are the probe agencies calling it a scam.

Over a period of time, the grand old party had loaned Rupees 90 crore to the Associated Journals—just for a recap the entity Nehru founded to launch National Herald and Qaumi Awaz.

After its creation in 2010, the Congress transferred this loan to Young India Ltd-- recall Sonia and Rahul own majority share of this company.

As the Associated Journal was a ship at the bottom of a tumultuous sea, unsurprisingly it could not pay the debt.
The public company formed before the independence could only manage to transfer just Rupees 50 lakh to Sonia and Rahul’s Young India ltd. But like the antiques hidden in a sunk ship are of great value, so were the Associated Journal’s prime properties valuing over Rupees 2,000 crores in Delhi, Lucknow and Patna.

Young India ltd took over these assets, therefore Congress took over assets of the defunct firm which was a public limited company. Simply put the Enforcement Directorate argues that Congress shifted assets of a company owned by Indian public to Rahul and Sonia.

So how did the issue reach the court?

In 2012, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a private complaint alleging fraud in the acquisition. The BJP leader said the loan given by Congress to Associated Journals was ‘illegal’ as it was taken from party funds and the Income Tax Act prohibits political organisations from making financial transactions with a third party.

Even the Associated Journal shareholders, who were the descendants of freedom fighters, including former law minister Shanti Bhusan and former high court chief justice Markandey Katju alleged that they had no clue, neither were sent notice when Young India acquired Associated Journal.

A case was then registered and an inquiry opened up against Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, their trusted aide Moti Lal Vohra, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda, Suman Dubey and Oscar Fernandes.

However, the Congress too has a defence.

The grand old party maintains that the Young India was formed with the ‘aim of charity’ and not for profit and that its transactions were not financial but ‘commercial’ in nature.

WATCH | National Herald case: Rahul questioned, Congress workers protest in large numbers in several states

In an interview with PTI, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram asserted the summons to the former party chief was "baseless" and said it appears that the ED's jurisdiction does not extend to the BJP members or to states ruled by it.

About the ED summons to Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and the Congress' decision of a show of strength when the former appears before the probe agency on Monday, Chidambaram said, "I speak as a Congress member and an advocate. The ED's summons to Rahul Gandhi under PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) is baseless."

Pointing out that the offence of money laundering requires 'money' and "laundering of money", the former home minister said in the National Herald debt-to-equity conversion, something which lending banks do on a regular basis, there was no transaction of money.

Therefore, how can there be money laundering, he posed.

"It is like accusing a person of purse snatching when there was no purse and no snatching," Chidambaram argued.

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