Sonia Gandhi takes court battle into the House

Directs disruption of Lok Sabha; in Rajya Sabha, Azad, Jaitley debate if ‘govt wants oppn-free India’.

Written by Manoj C G , Pradeep Kaushal | New Delhi | Updated: December 9, 2015 8:00:28 am
Sonia Gandhi Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi directed the disruption of the Lok Sabha Tuesday although she did not join her party’s MPs as they trooped into the well and chanted “Na dare hain, na darenge,” as soon as the House met. Before entering, Sonia had told reporters, “I am Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law and I am not scared of anyone. I am not disturbed.”

Party sources said Sonia had resolved to make the court summons in the National Herald case a “political battle” apart from the legal one in court, and that she and her son Rahul were ready to appear in court. Rahul was on a visit to flood-hit Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, where called the National Herald case “political vendetta”. PTI quoted him as saying, “Let them do what they want. I am not going to budge one inch. The same questions I am asking the Prime Minister or the government, I am going to continue asking them.”

Congress MPs stalled both Houses. In the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad led the Congress charge while Leader of the House Arun Jaitley challenged his allegations.

Watch video: No Relief For Sonia, Rahul In National Herald Case; The Issue Paralyses Parliament

Azad alleged the BJP government is selectively targeting many Opposition parties – he named DMK, TMC, SP, BSP, RJD and JD(U). “Now, it (government’s agenda) is no longer Congress-free India, but opposition-free India.” The Congress leader added “there are two sets of laws governing political parties — one for the ruling party and the other for the opposition.”

Jaitley, barely audible in the din, called Azad’s statements wrong and said the government was ready for a focused discussion on corruption. “Our government has not taken any illegal action against anyone. It is said that action was taken against SP and the BSP… It had happened during Congress rule,” Jaitley said.

He added that a “serious matter” has come up against the top Congress leaders. “The government has not raised. The judiciary has raised… a political party raising funds for political reasons and and then using it for business.”

Deputy chairman P J Kurien asked if the House was ready for a discussion to which the opposition members said “no”. At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Let them shout slogans as it is their habit and let them shout for years.” Amid the din, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge why the MPs were in the well. She offered to hear him out but Kharge did not respond after Sonia, sitting next to him, gestured.

Trinamool member Saugata Roy had no answer when Mahajan asked him why he (with other TMC MPs) was standing. She said it was the first time members were protesting in the House without an issue to state.

BJP minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “We agree with you Madam (Speaker)… neither the House nor you can figure out what is their issue.” Later, Rudy said it seemed Sonia had told her members that the House should not run. “If a court has done something, how is this House responsible?”

Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC) said vindictiveness of the government was causing unease among Opposition members. Rudy asked him to substantiate his charge.

Outside, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, “Who is Subramanian Swamy (he filed the National Herald case)? He is the power-of-attorney holder of the BJP to persecute and prosecute the Congress… And this is the methodology used by the BJP and so he is his master’s voice.”

His colleague Abhishek Singhvi said, “There are two battles to be fought here. One is the political battle which will be fought within Parliament and in the peoples’ court. Another is the legal battle which will be fought in this court and in the appellate court thereafter,”

Former finance minister P Chidambaram said the high court judgment was “incomprehensible”. “No one has complained of being cheated. Yet high court upholds summons to answer charge of cheating,” Chidambaram said.

“No one has has complained that property was entrusted and it has been misappropriated. Yet HC upholds summons to answer charge of breach of trust. Simple question: how can directors of a non-profit company ( Young Indian ) be charged with illegal profiting? Young Indian is the holding company. Associated Journals is the subsidiary. The directors are the same. So, who has cheated whom? All assets and all income remain with Associated Journals. So, who has misappropriated what?”

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