The Patiala House court premises were abuzz with walky talkies and speculation on Saturday morning. Several hours ahead of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi’s arrival, SPG and RAF personnel were briefed on the court lawns.
Lawyers lined the entrance to the court, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Congress top brass.
While RAF personnel marched in and along the perimeter of the court, their Delhi Police counterparts were positioned on the upper floors and terraces.
The Special Protection Group personnel manned the entrance to court number 7, where Sonia and Rahul were scheduled to arrive at 3pm for the hearing in the National Herald case.
The SPG entered the courtroom at 12.30 pm with jammers; a metal detector and an x-ray machine were installed at the door of the main building shortly after. While the SPG sanitised the courtroom, lawyers and court staff “booked space” right outside Metropolitan Magistrate Loveleen’s court, cellphones ready, hoping to click the Gandhis as they entered court.
The Delhi Police team arrived with Joint CP, New Delhi, M K Meena, who began directing officials to take up positions around the main building.
Within minutes, barricades were in place and everyone other than the lawyers accompanying the senior Congress leaders had been removed from the front of the building.
An hour before the Congress leaders’ arrival, the entrance to the court was cordoned off, even as lawyers struggled to find their way into the court.
Litigants, witnesses, regulars and first-timers to the court struggled to find a place from where they could get the
“best view” of the Congress entourage from behind four layers of security. Complainant Subramanian Swamy was the first to arrive on the court premises with wife Roxna at 2.20 pm.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who stood surety for Rahul, arrived at the court with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. Other party leaders, A K Antony, Kumari Selja and Sheila Dikshit arrived next and were followed by former PM Manmohan Singh.
Sonia and Rahul arrived at 2.51 pm and walked in from gate number 2. Some lawyers standing beyond the barricades raised slogans in support of Sonia and Rahul as they entered the court. Police and SPG officials recorded every movement at the gate.
In the next eight minutes, the Congress president and vice president had been granted bail and had left the courtroom. Swamy left from a different gate.
Congress leaders including Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, lawyers Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ramesh Gupta and Ajay Maken were led out of the Patiala House main building. The shops on the court premises had been shut for an hour and were reopened as soon as the barricades were cleared.