In a major setback to the owner of National Herald newspaper, Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the Delhi High Court today upheld the Central government order asking it to vacate Herald House. The Court granted two weeks’ time to AJL to vacate the building, failing which action under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 could be initiated..The verdict was pronounced by Justice Sunil Gaur after he had reserved the same on November 22..The Court stated that “the dominant purpose” for which Herald House was leased out to petitioners no longer exists..Referring to the acquisition of Associated Journals by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and leader Sonia Gandhi owned Young Indian, the Court observed that although the beneficial interest of AJL is “not technically transferred by way of sale/mortgage/gift”, AJL has been taken over by Young Indian Company for all practical purposes..It then goes on to state that the manner in which such acquisition was done is questionable..“This Court is conscious of the fact that Young Indian Company is a charitable company, but modus operandi to acquire 99% of AJL’s shares speaks volumes. The manner in which it has been done is also questionable”, the order reads..It thus held that,.“This Court is of the considered view that by no process of reasoning, can it be said that the ‘subject premises’ is not liable to be proceeded against under the PP Act. In the opinion of this Court, impugned order is well reasoned and it amply justifies the re-entry of respondent in the ‘subject premises’.”.It further rejected the allegations of mala fide and bias raised by AJL..“No instances have been provided by petitioners in the writ petition in support of the serious allegations of mala fide levelled against the ruling dispensation…One fails to understand as to how the ruling dispensation has in any way erased, effaced or defamed Pt. Nehru. To say the least, the allegations of mala fide are preposterous and no note of these allegations is required to be taken. In the instant case, the allegations of mala fide levelled by petitioners are bald and unspecific and so, no notice of these allegations is taken.”.AJL had challenged the “legality, validity, and reasonableness” of an order passed by the Land and Development Officer, Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on October 30, 2018, directing it to vacate Herald House by November 15..Centre had cancelled the lease on the ground that the said premises were being used only for commercial purposes in violation of Clause III (7) of the Lease Deed, and that no Press has been functioning in the said premises for last at least 10 years..In the petition filed through Advocate Priyansha Indra Sharma, AJL had claimed that the determination of the “Perpetual Lease” dated January 10, 1967 with regard to the said premises was “based on frivolous, malicious, political, arbitrary grounds, none of which are contemplated under the Lease Deed and seeks to initiate illegal and impermissible action under The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.”.The order passed by the Land and Development Officer was therefore in violation of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India, the petition stated..Centre, on the other hand, had denied AJL’s claim that the notice was politically motivated. It had argued that there were no specific pleadings on mala fides except a mere allegation that the “Centre is trying to destroy the Nehruvian legacy“..It had asserted that AJL’s conduct was in violation of the lease agreement, and hence the lease was rightly determined. Centre stressed upon the fact that Herald House was being used by AJL for purposes other than ‘running a Press’, and that National Herald was revived by AJL only after the Centre sent a notice for inspection of the property in September 2016..It was also contended that the sale of AJL to Young Indian was done to “scrupulously transfer the interest in Herald House to the new owners of Young India“..AJL was represented by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi..Centre was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta..Read the judgment below.