Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and deputy Rahul Gandhi are not required to appear in court in the National Herald case, the Supreme Court said today.
The court has, however, rejected an appeal by the Gandhis to stop trial in the case saying, “Let there be a fair trial.”
“Their presence will cause more inconvenience than convenience in the court. These people are of such prominence and they are not going to run away,” the Supreme Court said, adding that the trial court judge could seek a personal appearance by the two top Congress leaders if it needed to at any stage in the case.
The Gandhis had moved the Supreme Court earlier this month, appealing against an order that asked them to appear regularly at hearings in a Delhi trial court. The next hearing is on February 20.
The two leaders had appeared in a Patiala House court in the capital on December 19, after the Delhi High Court refused to cancel summons to them. In what was seen as a show of strength, they had walked into court flanked by top leaders of their party and were granted bail in under five minutes.
Today, the Supreme Court also expunged certain observations made by the High Court against the Gandhis and others in the case while asking them to appear in the case. The High Court had said the case was that of criminal breach of trust and cheating.
The Congress leaders have accused the BJP-led Narendra Modi government of “political vendetta” in the National Herald case, which has been filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
Mr Swamy has accused the Gandhis and four others in the Congress of attempting to illegally acquire real estate worth thousands of crores belonging to the National Herald, a newspaper founded by Jawaharlal Nehru and now defunct.
Mr Swamy, who opposed the exemption to Gandhis in court, said he saw today’s order as victory, since the Supreme Court had refused to quash the case against the Congress leaders.
“Despite opposition there is full exemption given by the court. The accused did not even once try to delay the court proceedings. We are satisfied with the decision,” said Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress leader and senior lawyer, who appeared for the Gandhis in the Supreme Court today.