Delhi HC reserves verdict in AJL's appeal against order on vacation of Herald House

Aditi Singh February 18 2019
Herald House

The Delhi High Court today reserved its verdict in the appeal preferred by owner of National Herald, Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), against the Single Judge Bench order on vacation of Herald House.

In December last year, the Single Judge Bench had upheld a October 30, 2018 decision of the Land and Estate Officer, Government of India directing AJL to vacate Herald House by November 15, 2018, after determining a perpetual lease agreement between the two.

The order was reserved by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao after hearing the counsel appearing for AJL and Centre.

In its appeal filed through Advocate Priyansha Indra Sharma, AJL has contended that the order of the Single Judge which dismissed its petition in limine, displayed "inexplicable haste" without even calling for a written reply/affidavit from the Centre.

It also disputes the Single Judge’s observation that the transfer of AJL’s shares to Young India resulted in transfer of interest in the said premises to a third party, which occasioned the determination of the lease.

AJL has also argued that its lease deed with the government did not contain any provision with regard to the quantum of circulation of AJL’s newspaper, National Herald, or its editorial policies for determining the continuation of the lease agreement.

The Centre on the other hand, had argued that the lease for the premises was rightly determined after the ownership of AJL was “clandestinely” transferred to Young India in 2011. It was thus stated that the motive behind the transfer was to assign the “lucrative interest” in Herald House to Young India, which is controlled by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi.

It was also claimed by the Centre that the Herald House premises was being used by AJL only for the purpose of collecting rent from the sub-lessees, and not from the “bona fide purpose” of running a press from it.

AJL was represented by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The Centre was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.