New Delhi: In a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Delhi high court on Tuesday set aside two orders of the trial court related to summoning of documents for trial proceedings in the National Herald case.
This effectively means that the documents which were sought to be relevant to the case will not have to be submitted for the trial proceedings.
“We set aside the trial court orders of 11 January and 11 March allowing for summoning of documents. These orders were passed in a casual manner, without notice to the opposite party and without application of mind." said Justice P.S. Teji while passing the order.
Young Indian along with others on trial had sought quashing of two orders passed by a trial court in Delhi summoning the 2010-11 balance sheet of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of the defunct National Herald newspaper, and certain documents from the ministries of finance, urban development and corporate affairs, income tax department and other agencies in the case.
Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for accused Oscar Fernandes, had earlier told that court that the orders had been passed without application of mind and considering the relevance of such documents.
The case against the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi was brought based on a private criminal complaint lodged by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy, raising accusations of cheating, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust in the acquisition of AJL by Young Indian Pvt. Ltd (YI) for ₹ 50 lakh by the Congress party.
The Gandhis had challenged these allegations in the Delhi high court. On 7 December, the high court dismissed their petition paving the way for the trial.
The 27-page high court order on the basis of which the trial began made out allegations against the six office bearers of the Congress of “siphoning off the party funds in a clandestine manner". Citing it to be a unique case, the order held that the freedom of a private citizen to look into cases of alleged corruption cannot be restricted.
The court on 19 December granted bail to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, party leaders Motilal Vora, Fernandes and journalist Suman Dubey, who had appeared before it following a summons.
The Supreme Court has granted exemption to Sonia Gandhi from personal appearance in the trial court and also expunged some observations of the high court, but refused to interfere with criminal proceedings before the lower court.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Vora, Fernandes, Dubey and technocrat Sam Pitroda were summoned for the alleged offences under Section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
Tuesday’s high court order, however, allows Swamy to reapply in the trial court for summoning of the documents.