New Delhi, Dec 19: After a 10-minute hearing, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were today granted unconditional bail in the high-voltage National Herald case by a local court which said that offences alleged against them were not of "serious magnitude" at this stage and there was no apprehension that they would flee.
Facing a private criminal complaint lodged by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the transfer of shares of the defunct party newspaper Herald to a newly-created company, the two Gandhis, accompanied by a phalanx of leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Priyanka Gandhi, appeared before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen at 2.50 PM.
The party's legal eagles Kapil Sibal, Ashwini Kumar, both former Union Law Ministers, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, as also top Congress leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, A K Antony, Shiela Dikshit, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel and Meira Kumar were at hand. As soon as the hearing commenced, Swamy opposed the bail pleas moved by the Gandhis and other accused saying they are influential persons and might flee the country if enlarged.
However, the court said "The accused are reputed persons having deep political roots and there is no apprehension that they will flee." Swamy then said that a condition should be imposed that the accused should not be allowed to travel abroad without the permission of the court and they should submit their passports to the court.
"Congress is an old party," the judge shot back and then dictated the order. "At this stage, without evidence the charges cannot be said to be serious in magnitude.
They also have deep roots in the society so bail can be granted to the accused," the judge said. Sonia, Rahul and three other accused -- Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Suman Dubey--sought bail which was granted after they furnished a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety each. One of the accused Sam Pitroda was not present as he was stated to be unwell. His plea seeking exemption from personal appearance was allowed.