New Delhi : The Congress on Friday accused the central government of spreading "misinformation" on a Delhi High Court order in the National Herald case, while the BJP said the order has exposed the Congress "like never before."
Accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of launching a "witch-hunt" in the case, the Congress alleged that the government was circulating unsigned press notes which said that the court had directed the Income Tax Department to initiate a probe into the matter which, the party said was not true.
Welcoming the court order, the BJP accused the Congress of "usurping money for their own benefit" and termed it "one of the huge scams".
"The amount of misinformation going on with regard to Young Indian-National Herald case makes me wonder whether the government has anything better to do than to circulate unsigned notes that are actually campaigns of misinformation and distortion," said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
"We have one such note. It is a government's version of what happened regarding the judicial challenge in the Income Tax matter of Young Indian Pvt. Ltd. It's a sorry state of affairs that government agencies, by proxy, are engaging in incomplete and distorted information, possibly bordering on contempt of court," Singhvi said.
"This shows the government's fear, insecurity, and vindictive approach," he added.
The Delhi High Court on Friday declined to entertain a plea by Young Indian Pvt. Ltd. (YIL), in which Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi are the main stakeholders, challenging Income Tax Department notices served on the company, thereby clearing the decks for an I-T Department probe.
The Congress leader said the High Court observed that all the points raised in the writ petition can be raised in front of the Income Tax Department.
"The court said: 'Why did they come to HC; raise all the points in front of the department'. The court recorded my statement and gave me liberty that all points raised by me can be raised before the department, including the jurisdictional point," said Singhvi.
"Because of that, I withdrew the writ. This is the order. Is this what you have been told? Unsigned note circulated by government proxies is using all adjectives. Some are even saying there's direction by the court to the tax department to investigate the matter."
"Does the order show this? We will apologise if the order shows this. Some even ran a media report that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been asked to appear before the court. Please tell, where is it written?" Singhvi asked.
Singhvi said that the Congress is proud to be associated with the National Herald which, he said, stood for free speech during the colonial period.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: "The Congress party has been left exposed today as never before. Definitely the after-thought itself shows there is an admission of culpability. But the bigger issue is that the Congress has found excuses and alibis."
He said the fact that the High Court dismissed the plea "naturally shows that the court did not find any merit with the argument of the Congress".
"They (Congress) were usurping public money for their own benefit. It is one of the huge scams of Rs 5,000 crore," said Patra.
Another Congress spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala said that Young Indian Private Limited had raised some jurisdictional issues concerning the Income Tax Department in the High Court, but withdrew its petition after being "satisfied" with the court direction.
"Young Indian is a 'not-for-profit' company that only runs the National Herald paper. No one can withdraw a single rupee of profit, salary, or dividend from it or benefit from it in any manner as per the Companies Act," the Congress leader said.
The case stems from a complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who alleged "cheating" in the acquisition of the Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of National Herald, by Young Indian Private Limited.
Swamy claimed that the Congress gave an unsecured loan to YIL, in which Sonia and Rahul have 38 per cent stake each, to acquire AJL.