Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and Vice President Rahul Gandhi were on Thursday summoned by a local court as accused in a criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of now-defunct daily National Herald.
Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha issued summons to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi besides AICC Treasurer Moti Lal Vohra, General Secretary Oscar Fernandes, and Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda, the other directors of Young Indian Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 and which took over the "debt" of Associated Journals Ltd, the publisher of National Herald.
Swamy had accused Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.
“Complainant has established a prima facie case against the accused under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property, 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC.
"Hence, let the accused Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda be summoned for August 7, 2014. Let the Young Indian be summoned through its authorised representative for the same date," said Manocha.
Reacting to the development, Congress spokesman and a senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party will respond "vigorously" to the allegations made by Swamy.
"Dr Swamy is known for his personal, motivated campaign against the Congress and you can take it that as and when we receive the papers and take the full legal advice a very vigorous response will be filed in respect of this completely false and motivated complaint.”
"Issuance of process over a stale complaint made a year ago is not something to be excited about. Let's seek comprehensive legal advice and you will see how all allegations are legally demolished," Singhvi said.
The court, in its order, said, "From the complaint and the evidence led so far, it appears that YI was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use or as a special purpose vehicle for acquiring control over Rs 2,000 crore worth of assets of The Associated Journals Ltd.
"Since all the accused persons have allegedly acted in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious design, there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against all of them," the court said.
It said the accused Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Moti Lal Vohra, Oscar Fernandes were the office bearers and trustees of the funds of the Congress party and the funds of the party were not the personal property of the accused.
"The funds entrusted to them by the party were to be utilised to advance the purposes for which the Congress party was formed....”
"These funds could not have been advanced in the form of an interest-free loan to AJL, as no provisions exists in the Representation of the People Acts or the constitution of the party permitting grant of any such loan to a company engaged in commercial activities," the court said.
"The accused, prima facie appears to have committed criminal breach of trust on the existing share holders of AJL as well as against the company," it added.
The court further said that the accused appeared to have cheated the state exchequer as well by claiming tax exemption by showcasing the objective the donations, etc. were sought by the Congress from the people and diverting those funds to commercial purposes.
Swamy, in his complaint, alleged that AJL was formally closed in 2008 as it was under a huge unpaid debt of around Rs 90 crore.
He alleged that on November 23, 2010 under the Companies Act Young Indian Pvt Ltd company was incorporated in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi owned 38 per cent shares each.
In December 2010, Swamy claimed, YI's board of directors passed a resolution to "own" AJL's outstanding debt and "admittedly obtained an unsecured zero interest loan from the Congress Party" for an equivalent amount to liquidate the debt.