Upholding earlier order, Delhi HC directs to evict Delhi’s Herald House

Upholding an earlier order, Delhi High courts recently dismissed a plea by Associate journals Ltd and asked them to vacate the Herald House in Delhi. The high court last week reserved its verdict on a plea by AJL challenging a single judge order directing it to vacate the premises.

AJL’s plea challenged a single judge’s order, dated December 21, 2018, that asked it to vacate the Delhi premises within two weeks. This ruling had come after AJL challenged the government’s order that it vacate the building. The Centre ended a 56-year-old lease and said there was no printing or publishing activity in the building.

The judge who delivered the December ruling said that AJL had been “hijacked” by Young India (YI), in which Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chief Sonia Gandhi are shareholders.

By a transfer of 99 per cent of AJL shares to YI, the judge said, the beneficial interest of the publisher’s property worth Rs 413.40 crore stood “clandestinely” transferred to YI.

During court arguments, AJL’s lawyer Abhishek M Singhvi has said the transfer of the company’s majority shares to YI won’t make Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi owners of the Herald building.

The government had contended that the land in question was allocated to AJL on lease for printing press and this “dominant purpose” was stopped several years ago. The Centre had contended before the court that transfer of 99 per cent stake in AJL to YI, which bought over the Rs 90 crore debt for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh, led to a “virtual” sale of the Herald building at ITO.

The L&DO had ended the lease – entered into with 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, 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, AJL said, adding the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was being published since October last year from the same premises.