The Delhi high court on Tuesday said there is no urgency in the plea of Associated Journals Ltd, publisher of the National Herald newspaper, against the Centre’s order asking it to vacate its premises.
Justice Sunil Gaur said it will hear the AJL’s plea on November 15.
The publisher had approached the high court on Monday challenging the October 30 order of the urban development ministry, ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises in the press enclave at ITO in Delhi.
During the hearing, the high court said it has not yet received the case file from the registry and it would not be able to hear the matter on Tuesday.
Advocate Sunil Fernandes, appearing for the AJL, said there was urgency in the matter as they have been asked to hand over the possession to the Centre by November 15 and they had received the order of the Land and Development Office on October 30 after which the courts were closed for vacation.
The Central Government’s Standing Counsel Rajesh Gogna said they are initiating the process and if AJL does not hand over the possession of the premises to them they will re-enter.
The court, which was fixing the matter for hearing in December, listed it for November 15 after the AJL’s counsel insisted on an early hearing.
“There is no urgency. They are not going to enter forcibly. Right now they will take the possession only on paper,” the court said.
The plea sought quashing of the L&DO’s order on the grounds that it was “illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary, tainted with malafide and without authority and jurisdiction”.
“The petitioner (AJL) has been in lawful possession of the demised premises for the last 56 years (since 1962) and the respondent (Centre) vide the impugned order, seek to dispossess the petitioner and re-enter the premises...,” said the petition, filed through advocate Priyansha Indra Sharma.
It also said the Centre has warned them of action under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, if they failed to vacate the premises.
One of the grounds mentioned in the L&DO order is that no press has been functioning in the premises for the last at least 10 years and that it is being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.
This allegation has been refuted by the AJL in the petition filed by the firm and its company secretary.
“The requirement of running a press cannot mean that all press and printing related activities have to necessarily be conducted at the same premises, that is, demised premises. The imperatives of prudent commercial business operations may necessitate that the petitioner company utilise the infrastructure or the premises at some other place as a supplement to their operations in the present demised premises,” the plea said.
According to the petition, AJL initially received a show cause notice from L&DO in June this year which was based on an inspection carried out in April.
It claimed that the inspection was not conducted to ascertain whether there was any printing activity at the premises.
The AJL gave a detailed reply to the notice on July 16 and October 9, saying printing activity was carried out by it over the last several decades and also as on the date of issuance of the notice, it said.
As per the petition, the digital versions of English newspaper ‘National Herald’, Hindi’s ‘Navjivan’ and Urdu’s ‘Qaumi Awaz’ have commenced since 2016-17.
The weekly newspaper ‘National Herald on Sunday’ resumed from September 24 last year and the place of publication was the ITO premises, the petition claimed, and added that the Hindi weekly newspaper ‘Sunday Navjivan’ was also being published since October this year from the same premises.
“The necessary licenses and authorisations for the purposes of publication were also placed on record, in particular, the necessary licenses have been obtained by the petitioner (AJL),” it said.