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I-T dept to probe Sonia, Rahul Gandhi in National Herald case

Investigation based on criminal complaint made by Subramaniam Swamy in 2012

Sayan Ghosal & Amit Agnihotri  |  New Delhi 

sonia gandhi, rahul gandhi
Rahul Gandhi (left) and Sonia Gandhi are directors and majority shareholders of the Young Indian Private Limited

In a major setback to Congress Chief and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, the on Friday allowed the (I-T) department to continue its investigation in the Herald case.

The investigation is based on a criminal complaint made by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy in 2012, accusing the Gandhis of a conspiracy to cheat and criminally misappropriate funds through its dealings with the Herald newspaper. 

Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis, by paying a mere Rs 50 lakh, transferred to Young Indian Private Limited (YIPL) the rights to recover Rs 90.25 crore that the publishers of Herald — Associate Journals Limited — owed to the Congress. and are directors and majority shareholders of YIPL.

Defending their position, the Gandhis and other accused Congress leaders had said that Swamy’s plea was in the nature of a roving and fishing inquiry that was not permissible under law. They had approached the seeking a stay on the I-T department’s investigation and quashed notices sent by the tax authorities for the assessment year 2011-12. 

Rejecting the plea, the Bench of Judge S Muralidhar and Judge Chander Shekhar, upheld the I-T department’s right to investigate into the alleged activities.

The Bench said that YIPL cannot refuse to submit the required documents. The counsel for the Gandhis, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, then withdrew the petition. 

“The Gandhis have the option of approaching the Supreme Court. The I-T (probe) cannot open a one-sided investigation. Swamy is not in-charge of I-T,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala in an official reaction by the party. 

Singhvi said YIPL was a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act and there was no way in which the directors or the shareholders could get monetary benefits. Loans, however, could be given or taken according to the prescribed procedures, he said referring to Rs 90.25 crore transferred to YIPL.

The Congress, he said, was proud to be associated with the Herald newspaper and will fight the present day curbs against freedom of speech which were similar to the British rule.

He said the Nehru-Gandhi family owned the newspaper right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru to and but never misused its position. 

The Patiala House Court, which is hearing Swamy’s complaint, had previously allowed a criminal investigation into the Gandhis (and other accused) to continue, while granting them bail in December 2015.