The Delhi high court on February 28 had dismissed a plea by the AJL against an order to vacate its premises Herald House.
New Delhi: In a huge relief to National Herald newspaper publisher Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the Supreme Court on Friday stayed all further eviction proceedings pursuant to the Delhi High Court order asking it to vacate Delhi’s Herald House as the publishing activity had ceased.
The Delhi high court on February 28 had dismissed a plea by the AJL against an order to vacate its premises Herald House. The Centre ended a 56-year-old lease and said there was no printing or publishing activity in the building and was being used only for commercial purposes.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna after hearing senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi for AJL stayed the High Court order and the eviction proceedings. The Bench refused to accept the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposing the stay. The CJI told the SG “the only question for determination is whether transfer of share holdings would amount to violation of the terms of lease agreement and we will examine this issue.”
The high court had affirmed an October 2018 decision of the Land and Estate Officer, Government of India directing AJL to vacate Herald House by November 15, 2018, after determining a perpetual lease agreement between the two.
The Centre had cancelled the lease on the ground that the said premises were being used only for commercial purposes in violation of Clause III (7) of the Lease Deed, and that no Press has been functioning in the said premises for last at least 10 years.
AJL had questioned this order and both the Single Judge and Division Bench concluded that “the dominant purpose” for which Herald House was leased out to AJL no longer existed. The High Court found that by transfer of AJL’s 99 per cent shares to Young India, the beneficial interest of AJL’s property worth `413.40 crore stood “clandestinely” transferred to YI.
AJL said that it has been publishing newspapers for the last several decades (over half century) and was granted a perpetual lease dated 10.01.1967 in respect of Plot No.5-A Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi.
The Petitioner has been in lawful possession of the subject premises for more than five decades. By an order dated 30.10.2018, it was asked to vacate the premises on extraneous grounds, and has been effected for political considerations contrary to the express provisions of the lease.