Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. (Source: PTI)

National Herald Case: High Court Says Associated Journals Will Have To Vacate Delhi Premises

Associated Journals Ltd., publisher of Congress mouthpiece National Herald, was on Friday directed by the Delhi High Court to vacate its premises in the national capital within two weeks.

The high court dismissed Associated Journals’ plea challenging the central government’s order to vacate its premises.

The government and the Land and Development Office said in their order that no press has been functioning in the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

Associated Journals had denied the allegations in the petition filed in the high court. Justice Sunil Gaur, however, rejected the contentions of the Associated Journals challenging the central government’s Oct. 30 order ending its 56-year-old lease.

The high court said Associated Journals will have to vacate the premises at ITO in Delhi within two weeks after which proceedings under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 would be initiated.

Also read: Supreme Court Allows Tax Department To Reopen Probe Of Gandhis In National Herald Case

The court had reserved its decision on Associated Journals’ plea on Nov. 22. The centre said all the procedures have been followed to the hilt before issuing the notice.

Associated Journals had opposed the centre’s stand, saying that publication of web editions began in 2016 and the issue of absence of printing press in the premises was not raised then.

It had said the government kept silent till April when it again sent a notice for inspection and in which it had said that it was coming to check breaches mentioned in notice of Oct. 10, 2016. Associated Journals had also argued that several major papers carry out printing elsewhere.

The court had earlier asked the government to maintain status quo with regard to enforcement of the Oct. 30 order.

During the arguments, the centre had contended that transfer of 98 percent stake in Associated Journals to Young Indian when the latter bought the former’s Rs 90 crore debt for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh, led to a “virtual” sale of the Herald building.

In its petition, Associated Journals has alleged that the proceedings were being initiated for the purposes of “scuttling the voices of dissent” and the voice of the largest opposition party in the country, a reference to the Congress.

Also read: HC on National Herald Building Lease: Keep Status Quo till 22 Nov

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, Associated Journals alleged that the order was issued under pressure and directives from the ruling party at the centre is vitiated by mala fide, bias and had “oblique political motives”.

The Land and Development Office had ended the lease—entered into with Associated Journals on Aug. 2, 1962 and made perpetual on Jan. 10, 1967—asking the company to hand over the possession by Nov. 15.

The Land and Development Office’s order had also said failure to hand over possession would lead to initiation of proceedings under the Public Premises Act.

In its plea, Associated Journals has also said 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 on Sept. 24 last year and the place of publication was the ITO premises, Associated Journals had said, adding that the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was also being published since October this year from the same premises.