Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper, on Monday approached the Delhi High Court challenging the Ministry of Urban Development order ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises in the press enclave area at ITO. Meanwhile, the Congress has accused the BJP-led Central Government of embarking on a “witch-hunt” and claimed that it was putting pressure on the machinery to revoke the lease of the Herald House at any cost, but its design would be defeated.
The plea, challenging the October 30 order of the Urban Development Ministry ending the lease and asking it to vacate the premises by November 15, is scheduled to come up for hearing Tuesday before Justice Sunil Gaur.
The plea alleged that the Land and Development Office’s order was “illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary, tainted with malafide and without authority and jurisdiction”. The petition, filed through advocates Sunil Fernandes and Priyansha Indra Sharma, said that 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 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 AJL in the petition. Bjp leader Subramanian Swamy had approached the Urban Development Ministry to take over the Herald House citing that no newspaper activity publishing activity is going there.
Accusing BJP, senior Congress leader and party treasurer Ahmed Patel said National Herald, Qaumi Awaz and Navjivan — all the newspapers run by the National Herald newspapers from the Herald House had the spine to speak the truth, which made those in power uneasy.
“The BJP Government has embarked on a witch hunt and is pressurising the machinery to revoke lease of Herald House at any cost. National Herald, Qaumi Awaz and the Navjivan have the spine to speak the truth which makes those in power uneasy. “The Government’s design will be defeated,” he said on Twitter.
In December 2017, the Income Tax Department had imposed a fine of Rs 250 crore on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi-controlled firm Young India, which took over AJl through a “covert and fraudulent” way. The Delhi High Court ordered Young Indian to deposit Rs 10 crore for entertaining its appeal against the Income Tax fine order.
In the trial court, the National Herald case is now in the process of submission of evidences by the petitioner Subramanian Swamy, who started his deposition on July 15. The next hearing of the date is scheduled for August 25. The accused Congress leaders in the case have filed a petition in the court for restraining Swamy from tweeting about the case details and defaming them.