HC asks government to maintain status quo on Herald House (Lead)

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New Delhi : In a relief to the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the Delhi High Court in an interim direction on Thursday said status quo should be maintained until November 22 at the Herald House from where the National Herald newspaper is published.

Justice Sunil Gaur's order came on a plea filed by AJL challenging the Centre's October 30 direction that the Herald House be vacated.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court that it will follow court's direction and maintain status quo till November 22, the next date of hearing.
The court asked the government to present relevant documents of the case.

The AJL alleged that the Centre was "illegally, unconstitutionally, arbitrarily and in a deliberate attempt" trying "to suppress and destroy the legacy of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru".

The Urban Development Ministry had said the Herald House's 56-year-old lease to AJL had ended and asked the AJL to vacate the premises by November 15.

AJL's counsel and senior advocate Abhishek M. Singhvi told the court that two officials of the Land and Development Office have entered the National Herald premises.

Mehta, refuting the claim, said that he will look into the matter.

The court said the Land and Development Office cannot take possession in such a way and will have to follow proper procedure under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act.

The government on Thursday assured the court that it would not take possession of the premises but it wants to initiate legal proceedings to have the building vacated.

The publisher had approached the High Court on November 12 challenging the October 30 order of the Urban Development Ministry, ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises by November 15.

The AJL told the court that it had been publishing the National Herald newspaper for decades. There was a temporary suspension due to financial trouble, but the newspaper and its digital media operations had fully resumed.

The weekly 'National Herald on Sunday' was resumed on September 24, 2017 and it is published from the Herald House. On October 14, the AJL resumed its weekly Hindi newspaper.

The government reportedly inspected the premises a few months ago and found that the area allotted to AJL was not being used for the publication of the newspaper for the past 10 years, the court was told.

AJL said those who came for inspection did not visit the rooms where the printing press was installed along with stocks of papers.

Countering the allegation of becoming Young Indian as a shareholder of AJL, Singhvi told the court the change in shareholding does not mean that the property has been transferred to Young Indian, and that AJL still owns the premises.

He said AJL remains the leaseholder of the building and that the addition of a new shareholder does not in any way violate the lease conditions nor does it constitute sale or transfer of the property.

Published : Thursday, November 15, 2018 20:00 [IST]
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