In a landmark judgement, Delhi High Court has rejected the plea of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi against appearing in a lower court in connection with the National Herald Case. The petitioner Subramanium Swamy, BJP leader, leading lawyer and long-time critique of Sonia Gandhi, is also expected to file a caveat in the Supreme Court so that they are not able to get a stay in the case.
Swamy had filed the case in June 2014 alleging cheating and misappropriation of funds by the Congress leaders in the acquisition of National Herald by Young Indian. Young Indian, as a Section 25 company, is a not-for-profit entity regulated by the same laws as a trust. Its directors are Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes.
On July 30, 2014, the Gandhi family approached High Court challenging lower court’s summons to appear on August 7, 2014. After nearly 1.5 years of hearing, HC dismissed their plea. The next date of hearing in the trial court is on Dec. 9, 2015 in Patiala.
What’s wrong with Gandhi’s appeal?
Technically nothing. Everybody has a right to appeal in higher courts and Gandhi’s should also get this benefit provided to all by the constitution of India. It’s their sheer contempt of our democratic institutions which is worrying. They must have thought, how come a lower court can issue summons to us. We have a battery of lawyers who can easily play around the legal loopholes and we need not appear in person.
What can be expected of a family whose son-in-law posted on Facebook regarding the Indian population “mango people in a banana republic.” The family’s “hum raja hain aur baaki runk” attitude has been on display many times in the past.
Two noted lawyers, owing allegiance to the Congress and Gandhi family, Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, respectively are the lawyers of the Gandhis in the case. They were able to delay the proceedings for the past 1.5 years but could not prevent personal appearance in the lower court.
These big lawyers who have appeared a number of times for the case, trying every trick in the book, normally charge upto Rs. 10 lakhs per appearance. Easily their bill could be running in crores for this case.
I am not going into the merits of the case, that is for the courts to decide. However, many questions need to be answered as detailed below:
- Are the lawyers charging market rates from the Gandhis? If yes, who is paying it – Gandhis, Young Indian or Congress party? If Gandhis are paying, its fine. If its Young Indian or Congress party then it would lead to another controversy?
- If the lawyers are not charging, and doing it on a pro bono basis, then the question is why? Of course the obvious answer is how can they charge from their bosses. Kapil Sibal, who lost from Delhi in Lok Sabha elections, was hoping to please the bosses and get a Rajya Sabha berth from Bihar (5 seats coming up for renewal in July 2016) and Congress could squeeze in 1 seat with the help of their friends Nitish and Lalu.
All related party transactions must happen at arm’s length basis according to Companies Act. Though, lawyers are not covered under this act, in reality it amounts to suppression of income of these gentlemen and hence tax losses for the country, as they get paid in kind and not cash.
I agree that there is no law which prevents lawyers from providing services for free and it’s all legitimate. However, such quid pro quo deals between public figures is not good and encourages corruption in public life.
Swamy may or may not win the case. However, he has been able to prove a point and humbled the Gandhis who could not with all their might of sycophant lawyers prevent them from appearing in lower court.
In effect, his achievement is very big as he successfully made the Gandhis “aam aadmi’ in this process.