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The A to Z of 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A is Apple, Android, AI: And other state-of-the-art techB is for Brexit: A decision Britain may regretC is for Clinton: Her emails and her shimmyD is for Demonetization: The idea for a cashless economyE is for EU: That claims it has a migrant crisisF is for Fight: The war against terrorism, particularly ISISG is for Gandhis: India’s self-proclaimed first familyH is for Hombres: The good, the bad, and the uglyI is for ISIS: a group that’s anything but rationalJ is for Jingoism: If you don’t believe it, you’re anti-national K is for Kim, Kanye, Kyle and the other celebrities L is for Live streaming: so you’re a part of big storiesM is for Michelle: the Obama who is loved moreN is for Note: The phone that lost Samsung crores and croresO is for Orange: In the United States, it’s the New BlackP is for Potter: The Cursed Child (was it good or did it face flak?)Q is for Questions: For which answers we have noneR is for Russia: Because everyone assumes Putin’s scumS is for Stars: Many left us in 2016 and are now shining brightT is for Trump: Did America play its cards right?U is for Ugly: What we feel about 2016 dailyV is for Virat: Or as fans say, Kohli, Kohli, Kohli!W is for War: It gets murkier, will there be a WW III?X is for X-travagent wedding: Money spent by Janardhan ReddyY is for Yolo: the mantra employed to surviveZ is for Zika: A virus that had a 2016 thrive

No comparison between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi: Sonia Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi said there was no comparison between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and late Indira Gandhi and rejected suggestions that the party did not have leaders to take him on.She also made it clear that she was not “troubled” by comparisons between Modi and Gandhi and that her party was taking on the Modi government. “Every era in politics or history has its own problems, its own leaders and its own opposition. I think the Congress party is taking on the present dispensation,” Sonia Gandhi told India Today TV. She was replying to a question whether her party needed to be competitive unlike the 60s and 70s when it was dominant and that it did not have a leader to take on Modi. Asked whether she was troubled by the fact that Modi was being compared with the late Prime Minister as a strong personality, Gandhi said, “It does not trouble me because I do not believe in it. I have my own clear views about it . There is no comparison. Absolutely not.”To another question that her party did not have a tough and competitive leader like Modi, she said, “I do not agree with that.” She recalled that Indira Gandhi was ridiculed, insulted and made fun of from within even more than outside when she entered politics, became a Congress president and later Prime Minister. There was nothing that she did was right. She was able to “overcome” that, Gandhi said.The photo exhibition, Sonia said, was consciously housed in Swaraj Bhavan which was the place of Indira Gandhi’s birth and where she met the leading lights of the freedom movement.The event is part of Congress’ commemoration of Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary that started November 19. “It was here at Swaraj Bhavan that Indiraji took her first lessons in politics. Her mortal remains after her martyrdom were also brought here. That’s why this exhibition has been opened here. From here it will be taken to other places,” said Sonia who, along with her children, dressed in pure whites, interacted with Congress leaders and workers asking them to prepare hard for the upcoming assembly polls. Sonia and Priyanka stayed overnight at Swaraj Bhavan, which was recently refurbished.Congress leaders were keen to get themselves clicked with the Gandhis, who also inquired about them and the preparations ahead.Rahul also shared his thoughts on demonetisation with Congress leaders present there.Sonia, 69, who briefly stopped her speech for the ‘azaan’, also remembered the emotional bond she shared with Indira saying, “Indiraji was not just my mother-in-law. She was like my mother. For 16 years we shared a house and also shared joys, sorrows and emotions.” The Gandhis refrained from making any comments on when Priyanka will formally launch her UP election campaign.No politics today, was their refrain.

First FIR in National Herald land deal in Panchkula, trouble for Gandhis

Fresh trouble is brewing for the Gandhi family, with the Haryana state government filing a First Information Report (FIR) for the illegal allotment of prime land in Panchkula, estimated to be worth roughly Rs 100 crore, to the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL). AJL is the parent company of National Herald, the now defunct mouthpiece of the Congress Party.

The move follows a Firstpost expose of 29 December 2015 detailing the file movement that showed how former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda overturned legal and official advice from within his government to first illegally re-allott the plot, then condone delays and defaults, even going so far as to extend additional unwarranted and unprecedented favors, including “camouflage aid to the firm”.

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTIRahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

The FIR (No. 3 of 2016) has been registered in the State Vigilance Bureau (SVB) Police Station, Panchkula, against officials of AJL, the then chairman (Hooda himself) of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), the then chief administrator of HUDA and others, under Sections 409, 420, 120B of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. The SVB is the main investigative unit of the Vigilance Department.

However, it is learnt that the state government has decided to refer the case to the CBI rather than investigate it independently. This is because the case requires an expanded jurisdiction as AJL has offices across the country and also because it involves several powerful politicians.

The FIR, which reads like a synopsis of the Firstpost expose translated in Hindi, alleges abuse of power to fraudulently prepare false records to allot the plot at a lower rate, causing a loss of Rs 62 lakh to the state exchequer. The issue of “camouflage aid” has been highlighted. This is the first FIR against land allotment to AJL and its outcome will have a bearing on the case filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in a Delhi court against the Gandhis for allegedly usurping the assets of AJL (details below).

Panchkula plot history

The institutional site No C-17, Sector 6, Panchkula measuring 3,500 square metres, was first allotted to AJL on 24 August 1982 for the purpose of publishing a newspaper but had to be resumed (taken back by the state government) when AJL failed to construct even after 10 years of possession.

Persistent attempts by AJL to restore the allotment failed during the tenure of the Congress regime under chief ministers Bhajan Lal and Bansi Lal because they chose to follow the rule book. However, matters took a favorable turn for AJL after Bhupinder Singh Hooda took over as chief minister and immediately began to throw legal issues to the winds.

The sequence of events recorded in AJL’s Panchkula file history with HUDA shows that the intent behind acquiring the institutional plot was purely that of asset acquisition rather than the stated purpose of running a newspaper since construction on the plot — that was acquired in 1982, resumed in 1996 and later illegally re-allotted in 2005 by a the Hooda regime — took place only after 31 years in 2013, and only after exhausting all further leverage options. Even today, though the construction of the building may be complete, Navjivan, the Hindi daily that was supposed to be published from there, is nowhere in sight.

FIR fuels AJL matter

In 2013, economist, lawyer and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy took the Gandhis, their companies and associated persons to court on charges of cheating and breach of trust to grab valuable land assets across Lucknow, New Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Panchkula under AJL.

As per the complaint filed in the court of the metropolitan magistrate, the Indian National Congress first granted an interest-free loan of Rs 90.25 crore ($13 million) to AJL, owner of the National Herald newspaper which was established in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru with the support of 5,000 other freedom fighters who also became shareholders.

Soon after, a closely held company, Young Indian (YI) was incorporated on 23 November, 2010 with a capital of Rs 50 lakh. On 13 December, 2010, Rahul Gandhi was appointed director of YI while Sonia Gandhi joined the board on 12 January, 2011. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi together hold 76 percent equity in Young Indian while the rest is equally held by Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes (12 percent each). YI has been described by Rahul Gandhi’s office as a “not-for-profit company” which has “commercial” operations.

On 26 February, 2011, AJL allegedly approved the transfer of its Rs 90.25 crore loan along with all its properties (alleged to be now worth up to about Rs 5000 crore ($740 million) to YI. Swamy has alleged that the loan was either not repaid, or repaid in cash, which is in violation of Section 269T of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Motilal Vora has been the chairman and managing director of AJL since 22 March, 2002. The company had 1,057 shareholders as of 29 September 2010, as per the annual return filed with the Registrar of Companies.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, party leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and YI are all accused in the matter (for which they had to make a personal appearance in the Patiala House courts on 19 December 2015.

Other Hooda probes also connect to Gandhis

Hooda is already under probe by the Justice SN Dhingra Commission for his role in the illegal grants of licences to hundreds of private companies, including Robert Vadra’s land case, involving his company Skylight Hospitality and DLF.

A CBI enquiry into 14 other plots allotted in violation of due process by Hooda is already ongoing on the reference of the state government.

The Panchkula land allotment, which records all the persistent, violations committed during the UPA’s term at the Centre with a Congress regime in the state, suggests the Congress has a lot of explaining to do for its wanton political patronage of AJL.

Initially, both the Gandhis and Hooda were daring the government to initiate inquiries to establish allegations of wrongdoing. Now that these inquiries are on full swing, both parties have started accusing the BJP governments at the centre and in Haryana of pursuing vendetta politics.

AgustaWestland is no Bofors: Congress, Sonia’s brave face on chopper deal

For those who are hoping the AgustaWestland chopper deal will become another Bofors and accelerate the political decline of Signora Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has sent out a different message through its aggressive stance in Parliament: Dream on.

The Congress has instead come out aggressively against the Narendra Modi government, behaving more like the prosecutor than the accused.

I am not scared of these baseless allegations. All the accusations are false. Let there be an impartial probe, the truth will come out,” Sonia said outside Parliament on Wednesday.

“This government has been there for two years. Why has the inquiry (started by the UPA) not been completed? What is the government doing?” the Congress president questioned.

In the Rajya Sabha, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad asked: “Why was AgustaWestland allowed to participate in Make in India when it was blacklisted by the UPA government?”

The party’s insistence on a discussion and quick probe has led to an amusing scenario even by Indian standards. It seems both the Congress and the BJP are keen to discuss the chopper deal, claim the role of whistleblower in the case, point fingers at each other and demand a quick investigation.

So, why is the Congress putting on a brave face? Isn’t the party scared of the repercussions of a discussion on a deal where corruption has been firmly established?

File image of Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders. PTI

File image of Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders. PTI

The case against Signora Sonia
Prima facie, and on the basis of information available in public domain, the BJP will have to do much more to corner Sonia Gandhi than rely just on vague insinuations and allegations. The only ammunition the BJP has against the Congress president is the appeal panel’s reference to documents that say Sonia is an influential person and the AgustaWestland representatives should meet the Congress president and other key leaders close to her.

The Italian court has, however, not  identified the recipients of the bribe. It hasn’t provided any evidence that the middlemen actually met the Congress president and her advisors like Ahmed Patel and Oscar Fernandes, whose names figure in the correspondence. The court has not been able to track the flow of kickbacks to India either.

According to a report in The Hindu, Italian middleman James Christian Michel, who has been accused by the CBI of outing the funds, has also given a clean chit to the Gandhis. Michel claims he had never met the Congress president or a “single Gandhi” in his life. The accused middleman says he is willing to depose before the CBI, which is probing the deal, to answer all questions related to the scam.

So, unless the CBI or some other Indian agency comes up with concrete evidence of the involvement of the Gandhis in the deal, the allegations will remain just that. And, this explains Sonia’s aggression and the Congress’ counterattack.

AgustaWestland vs Bofors
There are many similarities between the Bofors deal and the chopper scam.

Yet, it is quite unlike the gun deal that rocked Rajiv Gandhi’s government in the 1980s and led to the rise of VP Singh. Earlier this month, an Italian appeals commission — equivalent to the Indian high court — recently sentenced two senior executives of Finmeccanica, the Italian parent company of AgustaWestland, to jail for cooking the books and paying bribes to secure a deal for sale of 12 choppers to the Indian government in 2010.

The appeals court sentenced Giuseppe Orsi, former chief of Finmeccanica, to four-and-a-half years in prison. Bruno Spagnolini — who headed AgustaWestland — was given a four-year jail term. The court also ordered the two executives to pay €7.5 million euros ($8.5 million), a sum corresponding to the amount deemed to have been allegedly paid in bribes, a report said.

So, just like Swedish Radio that first reported the Bofors scandal, the lid on the AgustaWestland deal was also blown by investigators in the country wherein the bribes originated. The chopper deal, worth around Rs 3,600 crore, was signed after plenty of delays, primarily because the Italian firm did not meet the selection criteria immediately. The Indian government was keen to buy choppers with the capability of flying over a certain height, but the Finmeccanica birds failed to cross the height barrier. But, according to reports, the then Air Force chief SP Tyagi allegedly relaxed the conditions and allowed Finmeccanica to compete for the tender.

Initial investigations had indicted 12 persons, including Tyagi, his brothers and Satish Bagrodia, brother of Congress leader Santosh, who was a minister in the UPA, in the scam.

The CBI’s preliminary inquiry had revealed Guido Ralph Haschke, a middleman in the chopper deal, had entered into several consultancy contracts with Agusta through his Tunisia-based company Gordian Services Sarl. Between June 2004 and March 2005, he made two remittances — of €126,000 and €200,000 — in close succession, to the Tyagi brothers, in the name of “consultancy contracts”. CBI has alleged the Tyagis received an unquantified amount from Haschke and another middleman, Carlo Gerosa.

Similarities with the Bofors deal end here.

The Congress that brushed aside the Bofors allegations during the Rajiv era, acted with uncharacteristic haste when the AgustaWestland scam surfaced.

The UPA government cancelled the deal and recovered the amount it had paid as an advance to the manufacturer. It also ordered a CBI inquiry and blacklisted Finmeccanica.

The Congress is now hoping that it can claim the moral high ground on the basis of its actions and put the BJP in the dock by asking why the ban on Finmeccanica was lifted by the Modi government.

Sonia, Rahul to take part in Ambedkar event; to address rally

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi will be in Nagpur to take part in the concluding function of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Babasaheb Ambedkar on April 11 with a mammoth rally also having been lined up on the occasion.Several top leaders of the party, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, members of the party’s working committee and chief minsters of Congress-ruled states are likely to attend the function. Sharing details of the Gandhis’ itinerary, Congress leaders said Sonia and Rahul will arrive on a special flight from New Delhi at 3.30 PM on Monday and directly head to the historic ‘Deekshabhoomi’ — where Ambedkar had embraced Buddhism in 1956 — to pay homage to the architect of the Indian Constitution.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thereafter, they will proceed to the state guesthouse – Ravi Bhawan Colleges – and meet leaders from Maharashtra, said Nagpur city and district Congress chief Vikas Thakre. At 5.20 PM, they will drive down to Kasturchand Park where the party is expecting a record turnout of people.Over 15 senior functionaries of AICC and members of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and the party’s local unit are working to mobilise support for the function. After the rally, Sonia and the other leaders will return to New Delhi at 7:30 PM on the same day while Rahul will stay back and proceed to Mumbai the next morning.The district administration and local police are also keeping an eye even as preparations are on in full swing for the event which is being organised by the AICC. A Special Protection Group (SPG) team which has been camping here for the last two days today visited the Deekshabhoomi and Kasturchand Park to finalise the security arrangements.All Congress MPs and MLAs from Maharashtra will also attend the event along with senior functionaries of AICC and the Congress Working Committee, Thakre said.

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi to attend BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary event in Nagpur

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her vice-president Rahul Gandhi will attend the concluding function of the year-long celebrations marking the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar here on April 11. “The year-long celebrations of Dr Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary conducted by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) will conclude in Nagpur on April 11″, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Ashok Chavan told reporters here today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Both the leaders (Sonia and Rahul) will also visit the historic ‘Deekshabhooi’, the place where Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956 and pay respect to the late Dalit leader,” Chavan said, adding, this will be their first visit to it.Apart from the Gandhis, Opposition Leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad (Rajya Sabha) and Mallikrjuan Kharge (Lok Sabha), senior party functionary Digvijay Singh and other senior leaders will also attend the function, he said. All the leaders including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul will also address a public meeting at Kasturchand Park, Chavan, a former Maharashtra Chief Minister, said. The MPCC chief today also reviewed preparations for the event.Meanwhile, in another development, Chavan said the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) will bring a privilege motion against the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine in Maharashtra “for ignoring” over 6,000 villages from eastern Vidarbha region which are facing drought.The privilege motion will be brought tomorrow during the ongoing Budget session of the State Legislature,” he said. Chavan also said the (Nagpur Bench) Bombay High Court had to take cognisance of the drought situation and alleged that the bureaucracy had completely failed to provide relief to the affected areas (by drought).

National Herald case: SC expunges certain Delhi HC observations

The Supreme Court on Friday provided relief to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul, giving them exemption from personal appearance in the trial court in the National Herald case and expunging certain observations of the High Court but refused to interfere with criminal proceedings before the lower court.Allowing their plea for exemption from personal appearance before the trial court, which is scheduled to take up the matter on February 20, the apex court added a rider that it would be open to the magistrate at any stage to seek their personal appearance as and when required.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who is the complainant in the case, contested the plea for exemption from appearance, a bench comprising justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan said that “in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and the position occupied by the petitioners, we are of the view that the presence of the petitioners before the trial court would cause more inconvenience than convenience.””Petitioners shall be exempted from personal appearance and it is needless to say that it will be open for the trial court to seek their presence at any stage if and when their presence is required,” the court said.The bench, which passed the order after hearing senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A M Singhvi and R S Cheema, who were appearing for Gandhis and others, and Swamy, said, “So far as determination by the Delhi high court in rejecting the prayer for quashing the proceedings against the petitioner, we do not find justification for interfering with it.”Before dictating the order, the bench told Sibal that he will have ample opportunity to raise all these issues before the trial court. Sibal had sought urgent hearing of the matter on Thursday before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur which had assigned the matter for hearing before the present bench.(The High Court had on December 7, 2015 not only refused to quash the summons issued to the Congress leaders, but had also made observations on their “questionable conduct” on how they took control of the publication.)Subsequently, the Gandhis and others had appeared before a Patiala House court on December 19 last year when they were granted bail.The High Court, while refusing the plea of Gandhis and others, had said, “Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find out the truth and so these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage.”Along with the Gandhis, five other accused — Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd–had challenged the summonses issued to them by a trial court on a complaint by Swamy against them for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in taking control of the now-defunct daily.Swamy had accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which Young India obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.The trial court had on June 26, 2014 asked them to appear before it on August 7, 2014 but the order was stayed on August 6 by the Delhi High Court which on December 7, 2015 vacated the stay by rejecting the plea to quash the complaint and summons.According to Swamy’s complaint, all of them were directors of Young India Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 and which took over the “debt” of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald.

National Herald case: SC to consider early hearing of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s plea

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider the pleas of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi that their appeals against the Delhi High Court verdict, refusing to quash summons issued to them in the National Herald case, be heard on Friday.A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice R Banumathi assured senior advocate Kapial Sibal, representing the Gandhis, by saying “we will look into it”. Sibal said Subramanian Swamy, the BJP leader who has filed the criminal complaint against the UPA Chairperson and five others, had earlier agreed to February 12, the scheduled date of hearing, and now he is saying he is not available till February 19.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Gandhis and other co-accused may now have to appear again before the magisterial court here on February 20 if they fail to get any interim relief, on the issue of their personal presence, from the apex court.Earlier, the Congress President, her son Rahul, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda had filed appeals in the apex court against the High Court verdict in the case. The High Court had on December 7, 2015 not only refused to quash the summons issued to the Congress leaders, but had also made scathing observations on their “questionable conduct” regarding how they took control of the publication.Subsequently, the Gandhis and others had appeared before a Patiala House court on December 19 last year when they were granted bail.The High Court, while refusing the plea of Gandhis and others, had said, “Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage.”Along with the Gandhis, five other accused–Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd–had challenged the summons issued to them by a trial court on a complaint by Swamy against them for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in taking control of the now-defunct daily.Swamy had accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.The trial court had on June 26, 2014 asked them to appear before it on August 7, 2014 but the order was stayed on August 6 by the Delhi High Court which on December 7, 2015 vacated the stay by rejecting plea to quash the complaint and summons.According to Swamy’s complaint, all of them were directors of Young Indian Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 and which took over the “debt” of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald.

National Herald case: SC to consider early hearing of Sonia, Rahul plea

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said it will consider the pleas of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi that their appeals against the Delhi High Court verdict, refusing to quash summons issued to them in the National Herald case, be heard.

A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice R Banumathi assured senior advocate Kapial Sibal, representing the Gandhis, by saying “we will look into it”.

Sibal said Subramanian Swamy, the BJP leader who has filed the criminal complaint against the UPA Chairperson and five others, had earlier agreed to 12 February, the scheduled date of hearing, and now he is saying he is not available till 19 February.

The Gandhis and other co-accused may now have to appear again before the magisterial court here on 20 February if they fail to get any interim relief, on the issue of their personal presence, from the apex court.

Earlier, the Congress President, her son Rahul, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda had filed appeals in the apex court against the High Court verdict in the case.

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTIRahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

The High Court had on 7 December, 2015 not only refused to quash the summons issued to the Congress leaders, but had also made scathing observations on their “questionable conduct” regarding how they took control of the publication. Subsequently, the Gandhis and others had appeared before a Patiala House court on 19 December last year when they were granted bail.

The High Court, while refusing the plea of Gandhis and others, had said, “Questionable conduct of petitioners needs to be properly examined at the charge stage to find out the truth and so, these criminal proceedings cannot be thwarted at this initial stage.”

Along with the Gandhis, five other accused — Suman Dubey, Moti Lal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Young India Ltd — had challenged the summons issued to them by a trial court on a complaint by Swamy against them for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds in taking control of the now-defunct daily.

Swamy had accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL had owed to the Congress party.

Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

The trial court had on 26 June, 2014 asked them to appear before it on 7 August, 2014 but the order was stayed on 6 August by the Delhi High Court which on 7 December, 2015 vacated the stay by rejecting plea to quash the complaint and summons.

According to Swamy’s complaint, all of them were directors of Young Indian Ltd (YI), a company that was incorporated in 2010 and which took over the “debt” of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald.

PTI

To clear air on National Herald issue, Congress posts FAQs on website

Congress has come out with a set of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ to present its side of the story regarding the National Herald issue as the party said that the Gandhis have not benefited financially from Young Indian Ltd. The party also dismissed as “absolutely false” the claim that Young Indian (YI) Ltd, the company formed in the wake of financial troubles concerning Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), was a “real estate company”. Congress also underlined that there is no restriction in law on political parties giving loans and the Election Commission had issued a clear order in this regard in November, 2012.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had sought derecognition of Congress on this ground but his complaint was dismissed by a full bench order of the Election Commission” at that time, AICC said.On whether Sonia or Rahul Gandhi benefited financially from Young Indian, it said, “No. As directors or shareholders of Young Indian, a non-profit, Section 25 company, they are prohibited by law from drawing (and have not drawn) any financial benefits from the company.” It also denied that any assets were transferred from AJL to YI. “All the assets and the income of AJL remain with the company. Not a single paisa has gone to YI, YI Directors or YI Shareholders,” it said in the FAQs on its website under the heading, ‘National Herald’.It rejected as “false” the claim that YI was created to usurp the property owned by AJL. “On the contrary, Young Indian, being a non-profit Section 25 company, as the major shareholder AJL, in fact, enhances the safeguards on the properties of the AJL,” it said. On the claim by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that YI is a real estate company, it said the statement was “absolutely false”.”Absolutely false. YI does not own a single real estate asset or immoveable property. AJL continues to own all its assets. The allegation is, therefore, completely baseless,” it said. Congress also denied claims that YI now owns the property of AJL. “No, both Young India and Associated Journals Ltd are separate entities. All assets and properties of AJL continue to remain with AJL. This allegation is akin to falsely alleging that a shareholder in Indian Hotels Ltd. has rights on hotel properties of the Taj Group and owns a particular hotel or can move into it!” the party said.On the justification behind Congress giving loans of Rs 90 crore to AJL, the party maintained it has financially supported AJL over several decades through the financial ill- health of the company. “This reflected the party’s commitment to support AJL, the voice of the freedom movement,” it said. No commercial bank was willing to lend a single rupee to AJL due to the negative worth of the company, its “meagre income and its over-leveraged” balance sheet, it said. According to Swamy’s complaint, all who are named in the case were directors of YI, a company that was incorporated in 2010 and took over the “debt” of AJL, the publisher of National Herald.Sonia and Rahul last week moved the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of the criminal case and summons issued to them and five others on several grounds, including that the complaint by Swamy in the National Herald case was a “political move” aimed to “defame” them.

Gandhi family stalling Parliament to avenge 2014 defeat: PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi of blocking the passage of key bills by disrupting Parliament just to avenge their defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The bills, he said, were aimed at benefitting the poor.Modi during his hectic schedule addressed four public events in Assam.”There are leaders in opposition parties who want Parliament to run even as they oppose me, but one family is too rigid to allow the Rajya Sabha to function. It seems that they want to take revenge of their defeat. They have been reduced from 400 to 40. There are other opposition parties which are against us but they want Parliament to function,” the Prime minister said while addressing a huge public rally of the adivasis, locally known as the tea tribe, at Moran in Dibrugarh district of Assam.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”There are several important bills. We wanted to bring a bill about inland water transport to develop river port. Assam would have benefited the most from it. We would have developed the banks of Brahmaputra but they won’t allow Parliament to work,” the PM said.While trying to woo tea garden labourers, who have been a dedicated vote bank of the Congress, Modi said that the tea tribe has put Assam on global map by their world-class produce but they have been denied their rights by the ruling Congress Government.This was the first public rally by BJP in Assam after Union sports minister and state party president Sarbananda Sonowal was named as the chief ministerial candidate for the ensuing Assam polls.Modi on Friday tried his best to project Sonowal as the one who would ensure welfare of the people. He urged the people of Assam to elect Sonowal to power to bring happiness as he noted ‘Sarbananda’ means ‘happiness for all’.PM Modi’s launched an all-out attack against the Gandhis and the Congress setting the tone for the ensuing polls in the state right from his first event on Friday morning as he reached Assam for a day-long trip.While inaugurating the Rs10,000 crore gas cracker project at Lepetkata in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district, Modi slammed the earlier Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for its inordinate delay.”I was, in fact, not supposed to get the opportunity to inaugurate the project. Had this project been completed and inaugurated 25 years ago, Assam would have seen a lot of industrial development and employment opportunities for the youth. However, sometimes, I feel I am destined to (do) good works,” Modi said while inaugurating the project.Modi also became the first Indian Prime Minister on Friday to address the conclave of the Sankardeva Sangha, which has a strong 25 lakh disciples in Assam.Upper Assam is a Congress stronghold, Of the 126 assembly seats, 56 seats are in Upper Assam, and in the last assembly polls in 2011 Congress had won 44 seats.PM Modi attended three events in the region in six hours taking the fight to the door step of Congress.

Sam Pitroda defends Rajiv Gandhi, slams Pranab Mukherjee’s hindsight analysis

A day after the release of President Pranab Mukherjee’s memoirs in which he terms Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to open the Ram Janmabhoomi site “error of judgement”, technocrat Sam Pitroda on Friday defended the former Prime Minister, saying he was acting with “limited knowledge”.”Every decision is based on limited knowledge. The knowledge he has about the decision I am making is very different from the knowledge I have. If I am allowed to make a decision, five years from now you can come and criticise that decision. It’s ok. Decision is made. Best thing people can do is respect the decision at that point of time,” Pitroda said, speaking to reporters here. “In India everybody wants to play Monday morning quarterback. The game is played, let us now analyse it. Tell me what Nehru did in 1951, what difference does it make?” President Mukherjee, in his book titled ‘The Turbulent Years: 1980-96′, says that “opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple site on February 1, 1986 was perhaps another error of judgement. People felt these actions could have been avoided.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Shah Bano controversy, Mukherjee says that Rajiv Gandhi’s action eroded his image of a modern man. Asked about ramifications of these decisions, and if the decision on Shah Bano amounted to Muslim appeasement, Pitroda said, “Probably true. According to the guy that made the decision, at that point of time that was the right decision. When it unfolds, it turns out to be different. It is ok, life is full of those decisions.”Pitroda, a long time adviser of Gandhis, also conceded that these decisions were political. About the National Herald case, where directors of Young Indian Ltd — which includes Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Pitroda himself among others — are accused of criminal conspiracy to acquire ownership of the now-defunct daily, he said the Gandhi family had done nothing wrong and the government was free to probe the matter.Taking a swipe at the NDA government’s penchant for publicity, Pitroda claimed that Congress governments did not spend tax payers’ money on advertisements. “Digital India was started by us (during Rajiv Gandhi regime). We didn’t spend advertising money on ads for Digital India. Have you ever seen ad on UID, GIS? That is public money. I would rather spend that public money in doing things than buying full page ads in newspapers. I have a job and my job is not to promote my job. If I am doing something big, let me do what I am supposed to do. If I tell people every five minutes about what I am doing, I can’t do my job.”

Inaccessibility of Congress leadership led to Arunachal crisis

Even as the Congress leaders on Wednesday held out threat to block the forthcoming Parliament session to protest clamping of the President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh, many in the party said inaccessibility of the party’s top leadership and their refusal to meet the rebel MLAs over past five months precipitated the constitutional crisis in the sensitive North-Eastern state bordering China. “Over past many months, off and on, Congress MLAs were in Delhi, attempting to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to convey their grievances and complaints against the chief minister Nabam Tuki. But could not get an audience,” a senior party leader said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Many party leaders said while the BJP was squarely responsible for detabilising the sensitive state, they maintained that the crisis could have been sorted by the Congress inhouse. Repeatedly Mrs. Gandhi and Rahul refused to give a hearing to the dissidents demanding removal of Tuki. They camped in Delhi for four months and lobbied with all senior party leaders but neither she nor Rahul Gandhi gave them an audience, forcing them to ultimately split the party. Party’s general secretary incharge of North East V Narayanasamy was confident that rebels were still ready to return to the party, but sources in the party say, it was still for Gandhis to take call and have a last laugh at the BJP and Governor JP Rajkhowa .Exactly half of the 42 Congress MLAs walked out of the party but they are in no position to form a government unless they patch up with Tuki to have a Congress government in the state. The BJP, which has just 11 MLAs in the 60-member Assembly. The first hints of the rebels’ return to the Congress came from former finance minister Kalikho Pul whose removal from the government had triggered the split in the party. Narayanasamy said the minister for state for home Kiran Rijiju, has been coordinating defections and he had lodged BJP MLAs and Congress MLAs together in a hotel in Delhi for more than 5 months together. “This clearly shows that the BJP has actually got the defection in the Congress and on Wednesday they are telling that they are having the majority,” he said.

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