Congress’s M Kharge vs Minister Piyush Goyal In Parliament Over Probe Agency Summons

New Delhi:

“How can they summon me when Parliament is in session?” asked Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge in the Rajya Sabha today, as the Enforcement Directorate has asked him to appear before it in a money laundering case linked to the news outlet National Herald. Party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have already been questioned in the case over alleged evasion of tax.

The agency yesterday sealed the offices of Young Indian Limited — the firm that owns Associated Journals, which runs the outlet — at Herald House in Delhi. Mallikarjun Kharge is the authorised representative for the company, and the sealing had to be done as he wasn’t there, said ED officials. It’ll be lifted once he presents himself for concluding the search, they told NDTV.

But Mr Kharge, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, questioned the timing. “I have to appear (before the ED) at 12.30pm. I want to follow the law. But is it appropriate to summon me at this time, in the middle of the Parliament session?” he said in the House this morning.

“Yesterday, police surrounded the houses of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Will democracy remain alive in such a situation? Will we be able to work as per the Constitution? We will not be afraid. We will fight this,” Mr Kharge added. 

The Gandhis are shareholders in Young Indian. Police sealed off the roads to their houses yesterday when the ED was taking action at Herald House. 

From the ruling BJP, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal countered Mr Kharge’s allegations. “The government does not interfere in the work of any law enforcement agency,” he claimed.

“Maybe in their (Congress) rule, that used to happen,” he added, “Now, if anyone does anything wrong, the agencies will do their duty.”

The case stems from the 2011 takeover of Associated Journals Limited (AJL) by the company named Young Indian, and a subsequent claim of income tax. Young Indian took over Rs 800 crore in assets of AJL and, according to the Income Tax department, this should be considered an asset of its shareholders, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, for which they should pay tax. The Congress has claimed that Young Indian is a non-profit, so the shareholders cannot make any money from its assets.

Probe agency ED has argued that Young Indian has not done any charitable work and cannot claim tax benefits. It yesterday raided the offices of National Herald in Herald House on Bahadrushah Zafar Marg, besides at least 10 locations linked to AJL and Young Indian.

Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over what he claimed were pressure tactics to silence him and other opposition voices using central agencies. “If you are talking about National Herald, the entire matter is about intimidation. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah think that with a little pressure we will go silent. But we won’t,” he told reporters.



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