It was a historic day at Patiala House District Court complex, as members of India’s first political family stood accused before a Metropolitan Magistrate. The fourth and fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty walked into the court room amid media hype, hoopla and tight security.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul arrive at the court amid high security
It was a historic day at Patiala House District Court complex, as members of India’s first political family stood accused before a Metropolitan Magistrate. The fourth and fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty walked into the court room amid media hype, hoopla and tight security.After a relatively short hearing, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a pink saree, and her son party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, attired in white kurta-pyjama with black jacket, were granted unconditional bail by the Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen in the National Herald case.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court also granted bail to other Congress leaders and accused Motilal Vohra, Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey. The sixth accused in this case Sam Pitroda was granted exemption since he was out of the city on a medical emergency.The court had summoned them based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanium Swamy alleging financial irregularities.”Neither the offence is of that high magnitude nor the punishment of extreme magnitude….The accused have roots in the society and least possibility of tampering of evidence as they are documentary …They are reputed persons having deep political grassroots and there is no apprehension that they will flee,” the magistrate noted while granting them bail on furnishing personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety each. He posted the case for further hearing at 2 pm on February 20, next year.In a show of solidarity with Gandhis, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a host of Congress leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Ambika Soni, Sheila Dikshit, Ashwini Kumar, Meira Kumar, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ajay Maken, and A K Antony among others arrived at court room number 4, shortly before the hearing was to commence at 3 pm. A smiling Sonia closely followed by Rahul emerged out of the court after 15 minutes of proceedings.Among the first who arrived in the court room were Ahmed Patel, Sonia’s political adviser and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. A battery of Congress lawyers including Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi appeared on behalf of Gandhis.The accused Sonia, Rahul, 87 year-old Vohra and others were kept standing on the left side of the judge’s podium throughout the proceeding. Former PM Singh, Soni and Dikshit took the first row whereas Priyanka sat in the second row in the cramped court room.The summons was issued last year by the court and on December 8 the Delhi high court had rejected the plea of the accused challenging the summons.As the proceedings began counsel for the accused, Sibal placed the bail application and bonds while seeking bail. Swamy opposed the bail saying the offence are cognizable and the accused including Sonia and Rahul are “highly influential” people. Swamy requested their passports to be seized since they could flee the country. He also advised travel restrictions be imposed on them which the court rejected.During the proceedings, the aged Vohra was allowed to sit. Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the other lawyer representing the Gandhis, rose and argued that all the accused deserve bail in the case. Sibal questioned the summons, saying that “some documents should have been annexed with the summons, but they were not given to us.”The Patiala House District court located in the heart of national capital was under heavy security clampdown. The court premises were sanitised by the elite Special Protection Group (SPG).As the countdown for the hearing began, the first to arrive was BJP leader and complainant Swamy along with his wife Roxana who is also an advocate. While Congress leader Sibal and his advocate wife Promila were seen stepping out of their car just outside the main building, other Congress leaders including the Gandhi’s walked from Gate no. 2 to the entrance of the main building.Judge Lovleen entered the court at 2.50pm soon after accused arrived and the court proceedings began lasting till 3.05pm. The courtroom, perhaps the smallest in the entire court complex, was filled to the brim with politicians and the five lawyers representing them.The perimeter of the court premises were cleared of all traffic and the foot path was cordoned off. The security checks were so stringent that even the court clerks underwent a thorough frisking by personnel from the SPG.Since media presence inside the courtroom was limited to a few including dna, those media persons not allowed a chance to attend the hearing, impatiently waited outside the court premises as they valiantly fought to get a glimpse or a byte from the seasoned politicians. The constant tussle between the security apparatus and media personnel intensified as and when the politicians arrived. The security clampdown was such that only 10 cars carrying VIPs, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and complainant Subramanium Swamy, were allowed to enter the court premises. However, people or rather politicians had started coming to this small court room much earlier. The 13 media persons allowed inside the court were asked to stand near the entrance.At the Patiala House courts, a gate had been reserved for the VIP cars to drive in, however, both leaders made a political point by stopping their vehicles outside the court complex. They then walked into the court with smiles on their faces.In response to the court hearings, Congress party members staged a show of strength through the day with hundreds of leaders and workers crowding the party office since morning. In other cities, Congress workers protested against the Modi government.Congress sources said they were considering approaching the Supreme Court for the limited purpose pertaining to the remarks made by Delhi High Court. The High Court had earlier made scathing observations on the “questionable conduct” of Gandhis regarding how they took control of the publication. The judge Sunil Gaur was also of the view that “the gravity of the allegations levelled against petitioners (Sonia, Rahul and others) has a fraudulent flavour involving a national political party and so, serious imputations smacking of criminality levelled against petitioners need to be properly looked into.”On June 26, last year, the trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders on Swamy’s allegations of “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) by Young India Ltd. (YIL) – a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake. Complainant Swamy had claimed that the Gandhis, as majority shareholders of YIL, benefited from the acquisition of AJL. He also alleged that AJL had received an interest-free loan of Rs 90.25 crore from the Congress and that the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs 50 lakh. At the time, AJL, which had Vohra was its Chairman, claimed that it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.For Sonia Gandhi, A K Antony stood as surety.
For Rahul, his sister Priyanka stood as surety
For Motilal Vohra-B K Hariprasad as surety
For Oscar Fernandes—Ghulam Nabui Azad
For Suman Dubey–Ajay Maken
Sam Pitroda is yet to obtain bail from court.
Here’s how the event unfoldedTill 1pm-Since morning heavy security personnel BSF, RPF and Delhi Police personnel were deployed converting the Patiala House Complex into like a fortress. The hearing was scheduled for 3pm.
1.10pm—the court room was opened for National Herald case hearing after the SGP personnel sanitised the court room completely and took over their position for full-proof security of Gandhis.
1.15pm- Only thirteen media persons, including DNA reporter were allowed the court building. The security personnel frisked the media persons and asked them not to carry even waterbottle inside.
2.20pm–Complainant Subramanium Swamy along with wife advocate Roxena Swamy reached the court.
2-25pm– Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, R S Cheema and Heeran Rawal to appear for Congress leaders reached the court.
2.27pm–Sonia’s political adviser Ahmed Patel was the first one to reach the court to show loyality to the party’s President and Vice-President.
2.35 pm–Priyanka Gandhi Vadra arrived court to stand as surety for bother Rahul.Senior Congress leader Motilal Vohra along with his counsel reached the court. Other leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, A K Antony, Ambica Sony, Sheila Dikshit and other leaders reached.
2.38 pm—Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and took the seat in the front row.
2.40 pm-Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha reached.
2.48 pm- Sonia with son Rahul walked into the court room.
2.50—3.05pm– Sibal placed bail application and continued his argument seeking bail.Swamy opposed the bail which was rejected by the court and granted bail to the accused persons.