The Madhya Pradesh government on Thursday formed a committee to investigate whether land allotted to the Congress-linked newspaper National Herald in Bhopal was illegally used for commercial purposes.
The National Herald is published by Associated Journals Limited and owned by Young Indian Private Limited. The Enforcement Directorate is investigating a money laundering case related to the newspaper.
“Today, I ordered the formation of a committee to investigate if the National Herald carried out commercial development of a plot allotted to it at the Press Complex in Bhopal in violation of the conditions,” Madhya Pradesh Minister for Urban Development and Housing Bhuppendra Siingh said on Twitter on Thursday.
The minister said that the committee will find out who violated the conditions, who sold the plot and who carried out commercial development on the land.
The panel will submit its report in one month, he added.
Siingh said that if the committee finds that the rules were violated, the building that stands on the plot will be sealed, NDTV reported.
“The land was allotted in the name of freedom fighters, which was later transferred in the name of Congress leaders the same way the Rs 5,000 crore property of National Herald in Delhi is now in the name of Sonia Gandhi,” he alleged.
In 1982, Associated Journals Limited was allotted 1.14 acres of land in Bhopal for Rs 1 lakh, according to NDTV. The company published the English newspaper National Herald, Hindi newspaper Navjeevan and Urdu daily Kaumi Awaaz at the time.
The lease reportedly expired in 2011.
Case against the Gandhis
In July, the Enforcement Directorate had questioned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for three days in the connection with the alleged money laundering case in Delhi. Her son and former party chief Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the agency for 50 hours over five days in June.
In April 2008, the National Herald 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 Associate 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.