The plea by Associated Journals Ltd ( AJL ) challenging the eviction order by the Centre issued on October 30 has been dismissed by the Delhi High Court on Friday. The Centre in its eviction order had mentioned a violation of lease conditions by the publisher of National Herald newspaper.
The High Court also granted two weeks time to the company to vacate the Herald House.
The High Court has called acquisition of AJL by Young India “questionable”. It has says the purpose for which herald house was leased to AJL is now “practically lost”. The high court also said that the major portions of Herald House have been rented out.
Delhi HC says proceedings under Public Premises Act will be initiated if AJL doesn’t vacate the Herald House voluntarily within two weeks.
On November 12, the same court had deferred the petition filed by AJL against the Centre's decision to cancel its lease and vacate the Herald House by November 15 on grounds of violation of lease clauses. The order was issued by the Urban Development Ministry. The Counsel for Land and Development Office (LDO) had intimated that the department would "initiate proceedings" to have the premises vacated in the case but AJL did not hand it over.
Republic TV on November 15 had accessed the show-cause notice issued by the government to AJL detailing the violations leading up to the eviction notice.
The notice is attached to an RTI response issued to BJP MP Dr Subramanian Swamy regarding the matter. In his application, Dr Swamy asks about the 2011 takeover of AJL by Young Indian Limited, which is majority owned by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, who are both directors.
The show-cause notice issued to AJL then goes on to reveal details of violations at the Herald House at New Delhi's Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.
THE NATIONAL HERALD LAND USE AGREEMENT:
The first two points in the notice provide a background as to how AJL obtained permission at a concessional rate to construct the Herald House, and for what purpose, in 1963. By 2013, rules regarding use of the 6-floor building (basement, ground floor, floors 1-4) were modified, such that any one floor of the building and the basement were to be used to for publishing and offices of the newspaper.
HOW THE AGREEMENT WAS VIOLATED:
Next, however, it confirms that terms were flouted. In an inspection conducted in April 2018, it was found that there was no functioning printing press in the building, nor any paper stock. Instead, while the National Herald paper was being published starting September 2017 after being out of publication for many years, it was being printed elsewhere, at the press of the Indian Express in Noida. Meanwhile, the inspecting team found that most of the premises had been leased out, which becomes a violation and amounts to misuse of alloted land if the printing is not ongoing. AJL was then given 30 days to reply as to why action shouldn't be taken against it.