December,8,2015: Lambasting Congress president Sonia Gandhi for leaving it to the media to judge whether the trial court’s summons to her and her son Rahul in the National Herald case was a ‘political vendetta’, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said India is not a banana republic where the media of Parliament will decide the guilt or innocence.
“It’s only the court that will decide guilt or innocence. The private complaint is before the court, and it’s irrelevant to find who the complainant is and what his motives are,” he said.
“Under the Indian law, if any citizen comes to know of a violation of law it’s his duty to inform the court or the investigative agencies. Any citizen can set the process of criminal law into motion, which the complainant in that case has set. Therefore, they have to go the court, face the court and answer the court,” he said.
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi had said: “I’m daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I’m not scared of anything. Why should I be scared?”
Criticising the Opposition for disrupting the parliamentary proceedings, Jaitley said, “Nobody enjoys immunity from the court proceedings in India and, therefore, they have to face the trial. They have a remedy to either challenge them further or go to the trial court. But how does Parliament feature in this?”
“Parliament, normally, doesn’t decide the guilt or innocence; this is to be determined by the court. To tell the media you decide whether it is vendetta or not; the media doesn’t decide the guilt or innocence; it is the court which do. You can’t use it for a collateral purpose to disrupt the parliamentary proceedings. And if the Congress party is so keen that this issue come up in Parliament, I am here, and now, challenging them,” he said, asking the Opposition to decide whether they want a debate in Parliament on the pattern of debates on corruption charges against a member.
Elaborating upon the case, Jaitley, who is also a distinguished lawyer, said: “There is a court proceeding and the substance of the court proceedings a political party, i.e. the Congress Party, has collected funds for the political purpose. For that purpose, a political party gets a tax exemption. By a series of transactions, those funds have been transferred to a trust, and then to a company, which is closely held. That company today is owner of a real estate and getting large amount of wealth, which is certainly not for a political purpose. So, funds collected for a political purpose are being used for commercial activities.”
“The tax exemption was for a political purpose, and thus, a private complaint has been filed. The government doesn’t come into the private complaint at all. The court deemed it necessary to summon the accused. They have challenged the summons in the high court and the high court dismissed their petitions, saying a prima facie case has been made out, go and face trial,” the Finance Minister concluded.
On 26 June, a trial court had issued summons to the Congress leaders on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s complaint. Swamy has complained about ‘cheating’ and ‘breach of trusts’ in the acquisition of Associated Journals Limited, the publisher of National Herald, by a company called Young Indian Limited, in which the Gandhis reportedly hold shares.
Justice Sunil Gaur of the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the Gandhis’ pleas, which means they will have to appear before the trial court in the case.
Following which, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is also a renowned advocate, said: “We intend to not only challenge it on all legal recourses available at the appropriate forum which I am not going into detail as the matter is sub judice and we intend to seek a continuation of the exemption and stay, which has been continued for over a year when the matter was pending in the high court.”
On the same day, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a caveat before the Supreme Court (SC), urging the apex court not to pass any order without hearing him.
When asked would he oppose the bail petition, the BJP leader said he would be. “Among the accused two are foreigners, but not having foreign passports, which is a big question. Sam Pitroda is a US citizen, who can run away anytime. Therefore, they should not be granted bail until the trial is finished.”