As the December 19 date for the hearing in the National Herald case approaches, the camp led by petitioner Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy received some support from unexpected quarters. Vishnu Goyal, a businessman based in Indore, told Business Standard that he was planning to join the case filed by Swamy.
"People are talking about locus standi. I am the one with locus standi," Goyal told Business Standard over the phone. "We have received legal advice to join the case. Our lawyers are working on it. We will make a move on or before Saturday," he added.
Goyal, who purchased the rights to publish National Herald in the city several years ago, has been involved in several disputes with the management of The Associated Journals, the company floated by Jawaharlal Nehru to run the National Herald newspaper. He added he was directly affected by the changes to the ownership structure of The Associated Journals in 2010-11.
In a restructuring that is at the centre of Swamy's case, Young Indian, a non-profit firm 76 per cent owned by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, acquired 99 per cent of The Associated Journals.
Last week, Business Standard had reported that The Associated Journals had recorded its legal disputes with Goyal over possession of land and publication of the Indore edition. The Gandhis' lawyers have told the trial court they will appear on December 19.
Goyal said his involvement with National Herald dated back to 1998, when Shiva Publications, a partnership firm he floated with wife Rekha bought the rights for publishing the newspaper in Indore. The firm now also publishes Global Herald, a Hindi daily, and runs the nationalherald.net portal.
"We had acquired the registered power of attorney by paying a sum of Rs 27 lakh," Goyal said. The then board of The Associated Journals had granted the power of attorney, he pointed out.
Goyal launched the Indore edition in 2009, months after The Associated Journals decided to cease publication of the National Herald after settling dues to staff. When asked what happened in the 11 years between the time he bought the rights and began publication, Goyal said, "Publishing a newspaper is not an easy task. It takes a lot of time."
Goyal, now in his fifties, said it was his dream to run the National Herald. "Nehru won us freedom. I want to use that freedom to keep the National Herald alive. These people have shut it down," he said.
The man who wears many hats added that he had filed a case of cheating against The Associated Journals in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and that a notice had been served on the company. "They are yet to respond," he said.
He also claimed he had acquired the rights for The Associated Journals' Bandra land in Mumbai. He has sued the company in relation to that, too. Separately, the dispute between Goyal and The Associated Journals is also before the Press Council of India.
Goyal, who is designated as the chief editor of National Herald and Global Herald Newspapers, is also chairman and managing director of Alpha Vision Overseas India Limited, a company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Goyal's profile on the website of community organisation International Vaish Federation says he is a well known social worker associated with the Akhil Bhartiya Agrawal Sammelan and a member of the Malwa Chamber Of Commerce and Madhya Pradesh stock exchange. Goyal is also president of the Ravindra Jain Sangeet Academy in Indore, the site adds.
Readers of nationalherald.net have been treated regularly to news articles around the ownership controversy. Though there is little original reporting, the portal tries to catch up by posting extracts from articles in national dailies and agencies.
Goyal's son Ravi, who manages the editorial and advertising functions at nationalherald.net, said, "There is no plagiarism. We attribute it to the source organisation." He directed further questions to his father.
Nationalherald.net describes the paper as an English national daily founded by Nehru in 1938. The paper carries on its masthead the words 'Freedom is in peril, defend it with all your might' taken from a cartoon by Gabriel that Indira Gandhi had forwarded to Nehru. Nehru was an early editor of the newspaper and until his appointment as prime minister was chairman of the National Herald's board of directors.
"In 1938, K Rama Rao was appointed the paper's first editor. From 1946 to 1950, Feroze Gandhi served as the paper's managing director and from 1946 to 1978, Manikonda Chalapathi Rau served as its editor. The paper has editions from Lucknow, New Delhi and Indore," the website says.