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The filed by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora and others against the summons issued by a trial court in the National Herald case were heard by the bench of Justice Sunil Gaur on Thursday, a day after an application was filed against the transfer of these cases to a different bench. During a brief hearing in the morning, Justice Gaur noted that the transfer pleas had become infructuous since the cases had already been transferred back to his court.
The Congress leaders, in their arguments, have claimed that the transfer of the debt owed to the party by National Herald-holding company Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) to Young India Ltd (YIL) was a “purely commercial transaction” which did not create any new rights.
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The bench, however, observed that the “actions of a political party” had “wider ramifications” and the issue under consideration was not a “mere commercial transaction”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Sonia, argued that the cash loan to AJL by Congress was money that was donated to the party, and it was free to use the funds as it pleased. He also argued that “outsiders” could not raise questions regarding the use of party funds. The party could have also written off the loan, he added.
Sibal said the loan was in consonance with the party’s objectives and in line with the AJL’s objectives.
He also argued that BJP leader Subramanian Swamy did not have locus standi to file a complaint of breach of trust or cheating as he was not a victim. Swamy has claimed that the issue involved questions of public interest and there was no requirement to prove locus standi in the case.
Referring to Swamy’s contention that the Representation of the People Act and the constitution of the party do not provide for giving loans and that the Congress has violated the law, Sibal said the argument did not have “logic”.
“Absence of a provision does not mean prohibition. In a democracy what is not prohibited can be done,” said Sibal.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul, argued that though there was a change of shareholding when YIL was assigned the debt, there was no change in ownership of the assets of AJL
and therefore, there was “no entrustment”.
“It is not a mere commercial transaction. It has wider ramifications. How a political party behaves is everyone’s concern. It is precisely an act of a political party which is under the scanner here,” the judge observed.
The hearing is set to continue on Friday.