New Delhi: In a big jolt to the Congress, a Delhi high court division bench reiterated its previous stand on the eviction of Herald House which houses the party’s mouthpiece, the National Herald newspaper.

Upholding its previous order passer by a single judge bench, the HC told Associates Journals Ltd (AJL), owned by the Gandhi family, to vacate the Herald House located at Delhi’s ITO, at the heart of the capital. 

Both UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are currently out on bail in a case related to illegally grabbing the AJL and its properties.

The goldmine

AJL’s assets, including the newspapers National Herald, Navjeevan and Qaumi Awaaz and related properties, are conservatively estimated at Rs 1,200 upwards.

Also read — National Herald: Enforcement Directorate attaches land allotted to 'money-launderer' Associated Journals

In this, Just Herald House reportedly accounts for anything between Rs 300 crore and 500 crore. The owners get a rent of Rs 7 crore a year from the ministry of external affairs which occupies two floors for its Passport Seva Kendra, and Tata Consultancy Services which occupies two more. The top floor has been kept aside for the Gandhis’ Young India, which controversially got AJL shares transferred to itself.

Herald House, located at Delhi's ITO, at the heart of the capital. 

The newspaper, launched by India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938 to advance the freedom movement, is owned by Young Indian Company, in which Rahul and his mother Sonia are majority stakeholders.

Also read — National Herald mess: 3 strong raps in 4 days clear sign of noose tightening around Gandhis

The court also refused to stay the executive of the order for two more weeks, the time AJL demanded for challenging the order in the Supreme Court. 

AJL had challenged the single judge bench order in the division bench.

The court had earlier reserved its order after hearing from both the parties, AJL and the Centre. The central government is being represented by solicitor-general Tushar Mehta.

Time is up

Mehta had argued that the building was leased out for the purpose of publishing a newspaper. However, the publishing had stopped way back in 2008 and the staff had been let go after serving them with voluntary retirement. Moreover, AJL had rented a part of the building to the passport office and was pocketing the rent. 

Under such a situation, cancelling the lease was the best option, the lawyers for the government argued. 

AJL, in turn, had alleged that the case was one of political vendetta and that cancelling its lease was arbitrary.

AJL brings out Congress's mouthpiece National Herald. In December 2018, a single judge bench of the Delhi high court had turned down AJL's challenge to a Land and Development Office order which had ended its 56-year-old lease.