Congress leader Rahul Gandhi along with several party leaders were detained by Delhi Police at Vijay Chowk during MPs’ march to Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest against the questioning of the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the National Herald case.
Rahul Gandhi was taken to parliament street police station after being detained during a protest march from the parliament to Vijay Chowk.
Congress leaders are holding nationwide protests against the misuse of central probe agencies against opposition leaders.
“All (Congress) MPs came here. They talked about inflation and unemployment. They (Police) are not allowing us to sit here. Discussions are not allowed inside (the Parliament) and here they are arresting us,” said Rahul Gandhi before being detained.
Several MPs of the party were detained by the police following their protest march from parliament.
All Congress MPs were stopped at Vijay Chowk and prevented from marching to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“We’re protesting as per the instruction of the police. All of this is a conspiracy by PM Modi and Amit Shah to completely destroy the opposition and muzzle our voices. We won’t be scared, our fight will continue,” Congress leader and LoP Mallikarjun Kharge said.
“We had demanded that there be discussion in parliament on inflation, unemployment, Agnipath and misuse of agencies. Government rejected it. We said we’ll protest at Rajghat on this, but weren’t permitted. We said that we’ll give a memorandum to president. They didn’t permit,” Deepender Hooda said.
Sonia Gandhi accompanied by her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reached the ED office in the national capital. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also arrived at the ED office.
The first round of questioning was conducted on 21 July when several Congress leaders were detained as the party put a show of strength by staging nationwide demonstrations in support of the party chief.
The ED had on 1 June summoned Sonia Gandhi to appear before its investigators on 8 June in the case for the first time in connection with a money laundering case involving the National Herald.
The agency had issued similar summons to Sonia Gandhi investigators on 8 June and then on 21 June.
Sonia Gandhi could not appear for questioning after testing positive and being hospitalised for Covid-19. The Congress leader had developed a mild fever on 1 June evening and was found Covid-19 positive upon testing the next morning.
After her discharge from the hospital, she had asked for more time to appear before the agency.
The ED wants to record both Sonia Gandhi’s statements under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Last month the ED had questioned Rahul Gandhi on several occasions in the case.
The case to investigate alleged financial irregularities under the PMLA was registered about nine months ago after a trial court took cognisance of an Income Tax Department probe carried out on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP in 2013.
The petitioner had approached the court alleging that the assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), which published the National Herald newspaper, were fraudulently acquired and transferred to Young Indian Pvt Limited (YIL), in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.
The YIL promoters include Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis cheated and misappropriated funds, with YIL paying only Rs five million to obtain the right to recover Rs 902.5 million that AJL owed to Congress.
Congress argued that YIL was a not-for-profit company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 that can neither accumulate profits nor pay dividends to its shareholders.
Calling it a case of political vendetta, senior Supreme Court advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi had said, “This is truly a very weird case -- an alleged money laundering case on which summons are issued with no money involved.”
The federal agency’s move followed the questioning of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress Treasurer Pawan Bansal in April this year in New Delhi in connection with its money laundering probe into the National Herald case.
The agency then recorded the statements of both the Congress leaders then under the PMLA. The National Herald is published by AJL and owned by YIL.
While Kharge is the ceo of YIL, Bansal is the managing director of AJL.
The ED is currently investigating the shareholding pattern and financial transactions as well as the role of party functionaries in the functioning of AJL and YIL.