The BJP and its coalition at the Centre harbour a "pathological animus" to the ideas of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of Congress mouth piece National Herald, alleged in a plea in the Supreme Court on Monday challenging a High Court order on vacating its premises in New Delhi.
The AJL filed the appeal against the Delhi High Court order dismissing its plea to restrain the Centre from taking any "coercive steps" to vacate its premises at Herald House, situated in the ITO area in the heart of the national capital.
The AJL has also urged the apex court to set aside the Centre's October 30, 2018 order ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises on the grounds that no printing or publishing activity was going on and building was being used only for commercial purposes.
"...this court may be pleased to take judicial notice that the principal political party of the incumbent ruling coalition dispensation at the Centre viz the BJP (in its present form since 1980 and in its earlier avatar - the Bharatiya Jana Sangh since 1951) harbours a pathological animus to the ideas of Indian's first Prime Minister - Pandit Nehru, whom they incessantly and viciously accuse of creation of a secular democratic republic where people of all faiths have equal protection and equal access under the Constitution," the plea filed by AJL in the apex court said.
Terming the eviction proceedings before the single-judge bench and double-judge bench in High Court as biased and malafide, the AJL in its appeal said that its publication espouses the ideology of the Congress party, which is presently the largest opposition party in the country.
"The eviction proceedings have been initiated for the purposes of scuttling the voice of democratic dissent of the Congress Party. It is a clear affront to the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and a deliberate attempt to suppress and destroy the legacy of the first Prime Minister of the country i.e. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the guiding light for the publications of the petitioner-company," it said.
It said that the present political dispensation in power at the Centre has never hidden its pathological hatred for Nehruvian ideals.
"One of their favourite propaganda is to blame Pandit Nehru for almost everything that ails the nation. The eviction proceedings constitute a malicious step in the larger design of defaming and effacing the legacy of Pandit Nehru," it said.
Apart from urging the apex court to set aside the high court order of February 28, the plea as an interim relief sought restraining the Centre from taking "any coercive steps qua the demised premises or from pursuing any remedy available under the Public Premises Act during the pendency of the instant Special Leave Petition".
The high court, while dismissing the plea of AJL, had held that the entire transaction of transferring shares of AJL to Young Indian (YI) company, in which Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are majority shareholders, was a "clandestine and surreptitious transfer of the lucrative interest in the premises" to YI.
The Centre and Land and Development Office (L&DO) had said in their order that no press has been functioning on the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.
The AJL had denied the allegations in its petitions filed in the high court and in apex court.
The appeal in the top court further added that the determination of the lease deed is ex facie malicious, arbitrary, based on extraneous grounds, and has been effected for political considerations contrary to the express provisions of the lease deed itself.
It said that the high court's several findings have been rendered based on oral arguments of the Centre and a list of dates handed over at the time of arguments without there being a single affidavit placed on record by the official-respondents (Centre).
The high court had upheld the single judge's December order which had dismissed AJL's plea against the Centre's eviction order and had directed it to vacate in two weeks the Herald House.
The high court had agreed with the Centre's submission, that the breach had been continuing from 2008 till commencement of the digital publication of the newspaper on November 14, 2016.
The L&DO had ended the lease, entered into with the AJL on August 2, 1962 and made perpetual on January 10, 1967, asking the company to hand over the possession by November 15, 2018.
The weekly newspaper 'National Herald on Sunday' resumed on September 24, 2017, and the place of publication was the ITO premises, the AJL said, adding the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was being published since October last year from the same premises.