NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved its verdict on a plea by National Herald publisher AJL challenging a single judge direction to vacate the premises in the city, arguing that transfer of shares to YI, in which Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are shareholders, won’t make them the building’s owners.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao reserved its decision after Associated Journals Ltd presented its arguments. The court also asked AJL and the Centre’s lawyers to file their written submissions in three days. During the hearing, which lasted over an hour, AJL, represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, reiterated the argument that transfer of the company’s majority shares to Young India (YI) would not make Gandhis the owners of the Herald building.
Singhvi further contended that the Centre never raised the issue of lack of printing activity at the Herald building prior to June 2018, by when publishing of some of its online editions had already commenced.
The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, had earlier argued that in the manner the shares were transferred, the court needs to “pierce the corporate veil” of AJL to see who owns the premises — Herald House — leased to it for running a printing press.
The government had contended that the land in question was allocated to AJL on lease for printing press and this “dominant purpose” was stopped several years ago.AJL has appealed against the single judge’s December 21, 2018 order that directed it to vacate the premises at ITO within two weeks, which would be followed by eviction proceedings under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.
The single judge had also said that by transfer of AJL’s 99% shares to YI, the beneficial interest of AJL’s property worth `413.40 crore stands “clandestinely” transferred to YI.In its order, the single judge had said that AJL has been “hijacked” by YI, in which the Gandhis are shareholders.
The Centre had contended that transfer of 99% stake in AJL to YI, which bought over the Rs 90 crore debt for consideration of Rs 50 lakh, led to a “virtual” sale of the Herald building at ITO. The December order had come on AJL’s plea challenging the Centre’s order to vacate the building. With agency inputs
The government had contended that the land in question was allocated to AJL on lease for printing press and this “dominant purpose” was stopped several years ago