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SC Stops Eviction of National Herald Publisher, Sends Notice to Centre

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre's Land and Development Office (L&DO) on the plea of AJL, publisher of the National Herald.


Updated:April 5, 2019, 2:28 PM IST
SC Stops Eviction of National Herald Publisher, Sends Notice to Centre
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi goes through the pages of National Herald newspaper during the launch of its commemorative edition in Bengaluru on December 6, 2017. (PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court order asking the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), publisher of National Herald, to vacate the Herald House building here.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre's Land and Development Office (L&DO) on the AJL plea.

AJL moved the apex court against the high court order dismissing its plea to restrain the Centre from taking any "coercive steps" to vacate its premises at Herald House in ITO area in the heart of the national capital.

The high court held that the entire transaction of transferring shares of AJL to Young Indian (YI) company, in which Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are majority shareholders, was a "clandestine and surreptitious transfer of the lucrative interest in the premises" to YI.

AJL has also sought in the top court setting aside of the Centre's October 30, 2018 order ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises on the grounds that no printing or publishing activity was going on and building was being used only for commercial purposes.

The high court had on February 28 dismissed the plea of AJL and had said there has been "misuse" of lease conditions.

The AJL's plea said that the present political dispensation in power at the Centre has never hidden its pathological hatred for Nehruvian ideals.

"One of their favourite propaganda is to blame Pandit Nehru for almost everything that ails the nation. The eviction proceedings constitute a malicious step in the larger design of defaming and effacing the legacy of Pandit Nehru," it said.

The Centre and L&DO had said in their order that no press has been functioning on the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

The AJL had denied the allegations in its petitions filed in the high court and in apex court.

The appeal in the top court said the determination of the lease deed is ex facie malicious, arbitrary, based on extraneous grounds, and has been effected for political considerations contrary to the express provisions of the lease deed itself.

It had said that the high court's several findings have been rendered based on oral arguments of the Centre and a list of dates handed over at the time of arguments without there being a single affidavit placed on record by the official-respondents (Centre).

The high court had agreed with the Centre's submission, that the breach had been continuing from 2008 till commencement of the digital publication of the newspaper on November 14, 2016.

The L&DO had ended the lease, entered into with the AJL on August 2, 1962 and made perpetual on January 10, 1967, asking the company to hand over the possession by November 15, 2018.

In its plea, the AJL had also said the digital versions of English newspaper National Herald, Hindi's Navjivan and Urdu's Qaumi Awaz have commenced from 2016-17.

The weekly newspaper 'National Herald on Sunday' resumed on September 24, 2017, and the place of publication was the ITO premises, the AJL had said, adding the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was being published since October last year from the same premises.

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