Amid an ongoing legal battle in a Delhi court involving Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which used to publish the now-defunct National Herald, announced Thursday that it will will cease to be a commercial entity and become a non-profit. Its shareholders also decided to relaunch its newspapers.
These decisions were taken in Lucknow at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) called to seek the approval of shareholders to convert AJL into a not-for-profit Section 8 company under the Companies Act, 2013. The meeting was attended among others by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sam Pitroda, Oscar Fernandes, Sheila Dikshit, Sandeep Dikshit, Salim Sherwani, Ratna Singh, Jitin Prasada and Syed Sibtey Razi.
Asked when will the newspapers be relaunched, AJL chairman and managing director Motilal Vora said it will be done soon.
“The members considered and approved a number of resolutions to convert AJL into a not-for-profit company,” Vora told reporters after the nearly thee-hour-long meeting of shareholders for changing the structure of the company.
“We are considering very seriously relaunching the newspapers,” he said when asked when the dailies would hit the stands, including from Lucknow. “These decisions of the members of the company are in pursuance to the revival plan of the company since 2010 which includes its conversion into a not-for-profit entity and relaunching the newspapers,” he said.
The meeting was held against the backdrop of a criminal case instituted by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy against
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and five others, including Vora, over the acquisition of AJL by Young Indian, a non profit company under the Companies Act in November, 2010.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the notice for the EGM was issued by Vora. The AJL and its office bearers are in the eye of a political and legal storm ever since Vora, along with other directors in the company, had in December, 2010 transferred its entire equity to a new company Young Indian Ltd (YIL), in which Sonia and Rahul hold majority stake.
The YIL is also a non-profit company though under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, it also has to ensure that its profits and all other incomes are utilised only for the purpose of promoting its objects and not for any other
purpose. In such a company too, profits can’t be distributed as dividend among its members.
Five resolutions were taken up at the EGM, including conversion of the company into Section 8 under the Companies Act, 2013 and accordingly alteration to the memorandum of association, alteration to the articles of association, change of the name of the company and dealing with the preference shares.
Virender Rathore, who was official representative of YIL at the meeting, said, “While the main decision is to turn even the AJL into a non-profit like Young India, which is also a non-profit entity and now has 90 per cent of the shares of AJL, all the other decisions are in accordance with this decision. As far as dealing with the preference shares are concerned, Board of Directors have been authorised to represent the rest of the shareholders.”
Family member of some of the shareholders turned up at the venue since they had got notice from the managing director. But they were told that they would be informed about the decisions. Later, speaking to the media, Vora said, “Notices for the EGM had been duly sent out to all the members of the company.”
Earlier in the day, former employees of AJL publications staged dharna outside the office of AJL in Qaiserbagh demanding benefits at par with those given to employees in Delhi. State Congress president Nirmal Khatri, on behalf of Vora, assured the employees of a separate meeting in Delhi with them. He even offered to pay for the travel of representatives of employees from Lucknow to Delhi.