The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday asked Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to appear before it again on Friday for a fourth day of questioning in connection with a money-laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper, reported PTI on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, he appeared before the agency for the third consecutive day in the case. He arrived at the agency’s headquarters in Central Delhi’s APJ Abdul Kalam road at around 11.35 am with Z+ category security escort. The questioning began at noon.
Ahead of his appearance on Wednesday, a protest was held at the Congress headquarters in the national capital by party workers against the Enforcement Directorate.
Congress alleges workers beaten up by police
Several Youth Congress and Mahila Congress workers, who were protesting outside the party office on Akbar Road, were beaten up by the police, an unidentified party worker alleged, PTI reported.
The Delhi Police has imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, prohibiting the gathering of four or more persons in the areas around the Congress headquarters.
Barricades were put up outside the Congress office, preventing workers from entering the premises.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said that the situation in Delhi is worrying and the government is “murdering democracy”.
“AICC [Congress headquarters] have been surrounded from all sides,” he said. “No one can come or go. Yesterday, the Delhi Police misbehaved with our senior leaders. BJP is trying every move to suppress the Opposition.”
He alleged that the Congress workers are being mercilessly beaten up.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala accused the Delhi Police of forcefully entering the party office and beating up workers, ANI reported.
“This is criminal trespass,” he added. “Their goondaism has reached its zenith. This won’t be tolerated and will be accounted for.”
Senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned whether the country is turning into a Banana Republic. “Is this democracy?” he asked, according to PTI. “The Constitution is being violated.”
The Delhi Police, supported by paramilitary personnel, detained a number of workers including Youth Congress chief BV Srinivas and Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary, PTI reported.
Chaudhary alleged that Section 144 was imposed at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Tuesday too, several Congress leaders, including KC Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Surjewala, were detained by the police when they had attempted to accompany Gandhi to the Enforcement Directorate’s office. They were released later in the day.
Baghel and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had alleged that they were stopped from visiting the police stations where leaders and workers of the Congress party were detained.
The Delhi Police said that Congress leaders were detained as they held a gathering even as Section 144 was imposed.
On Monday, the Congress had alleged that senior party leaders such as Chowdhury, Venugopal and P Chidambaram were injured after they were manhandled by the Delhi Police.
Surjewala had said that while Chidambaram suffered an injury in his left rib, party MP Pramod Tiwari suffered a rib fracture and a head injury after he was pushed on the street.
The Delhi Police had denied allegations of manhandling and assault by officers on duty.
The National Herald case
The National Herald is published by Associated Journals Limited and owned by Young Indian Private Limited. It was founded and edited by Jawaharlal Nehru before he became India’s first prime minister.
In April 2008, the paper suspended operations as it had incurred a debt of over Rs 90 crore. Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy has accused Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of setting up the Young Indian Private Limited firm to buy the debt using the funds from the Congress.
In his complaint before a trial court, Swamy accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate the funds. He has alleged that the Young Indian firm paid only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that the Associated Journals Limited owed to the Congress.
The party had loaned the amount to Associated Journals Limited on an interest-free basis, according to court records. The Congress has claimed that there was no money exchange and only conversion of debt into equity took place to pay off dues like salaries.