Genesis of controversy for Gandhis: The National Herald case history

The Enforcement Directorate summons to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the top leadership of the Congress, in a money-laundering probe linked to the over a decade-old National Herald case, seems a culmination of a complex and intricate case of company law and shares transfer.

The genesis of the controversy lies in the acquisition of shares of the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) on January 26, 2011.

The AJL was incorporated as a public limited company on November 20, 1937 under the Indian Companies Act, 1913, for the purpose of publication of newspapers in different languages. It started publishing newspapers such as “National Herald” in English, “Navjivan” in Hindi and “Quami Awaz” in Urdu.

The publication of the newspapers was suspended on various occasions due to financial difficulties and certain labour problems, and on April 2, 2008, the newspaper was closed.

The properties were allotted for carrying out newspaper business and publication of newspapers in different languages. However, it was also allowed to let out these properties on rent to cater to its publication business, post-closure of the newspaper.

The office of AJL was shifted from Lucknow on September 1, 2010 to its Delhi property situated at 5A, Herald House, Bahadurshah Zafar Marg.

Amid this chain of events, the All India Congress Committee (AICC), an apex body of the Congress, had advanced loans to AJL from time to time.

On March 31, 2010, there was outstanding loan of Rs 88,86,68,976 (over Rs 88 crore) and a further loan of Rs 1.35 crore was received during the period April 1, 2010 to December 16, 2010, aggregating to Rs 90.21 crore.

On December 16, 2010, the AICC transferred the entire outstanding loan of Rs 90.21 crore due from AJL in favour of appellant company, Young Indian, for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh.

Further, almost 99.99 per cent shares of AJL were transferred to Young Indian.

On December 13, 2010, in the first Managing Committee meeting of Young Indian, Rahul Gandhi was appointed as Director.

On January 22, 2011, a fresh allotment of the shares of Young Indian were made, in which 1,900 shares, having paid-up value of Rs 1,90,000, were granted to Rahul Gandhi and 1,350 shares with a paid-up amount of Rs 1,35,000 in the name of Sonia Gandhi among other share holders.

In order to fulfil its objective of acquiring 100 per cent shares of AJL, Rahul Gandhi, along with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, purchased additional shares amounting to 47,513 and 2,62,411, through Ratan Deep Trust and Janhit Nidhi Trust, respectively, without complying provisions of the Companies Act.

In a nutshell, the National Herald case pertains to the assignment of a Rs 90 crore loan advanced by the Congress to Young Indian for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh, and alleged misappropriation of assets of over Rs 2,000 crore.

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