National Herald Case: Sonia Leaves ED Office as Questioning Ends for the Day
Her children, party leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, had accompanied her to the ED office.
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi left the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office in Delhi on Thursday, 21 July, after two hours of questioning in connection with the National Herald money laundering case.
The ED ended the session for the day on Gandhi's request as she is recovering from COVID-19, officials said.
However, the Congress' Jairam Ramesh, disputing these claims told news agency ANI that the Congress chief was "interrogated for 2-3 hrs, after which ED officials allowed her to leave as they didn't have anything else to ask."
"The allegations that ED stopped investigation as Sonia Gandhi requested to leave because she is suffering from COVID-19 are baseless. Interrogation ended because ED didn't have anything to ask. Sonia Gandhi said, she'll be present at ED office whenever they want"Congress leader Jairam Ramesh to news agency ANI
She had arrived at the ED at 12 pm and questioning began at 12:30. Her children, party leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, had accompanied her to the ED office.
Priyanka Gandhi was allowed to stay in the 'Pravartan Bhawan' headquarters of the agency, away from the questioning room, so that in case of a health issue she could be with her 75-year-old mother, who recently recovered from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Gehlot, P Chidambaram, Ajay Maken, and Sachin Pilot were detained by the police in Delhi as they staged protests against the summons to the party chief. Party workers and leaders held demonstrations carrying placards and raising slogans at the Congress headquarters.
The Opposition party has also criticised the ED action as "political vendetta."
Ahead of Sonia's Questioning, Oppn Makes Joint Statement
In a statement released ahead of Gandhi's appearance before the ED, the Opposition released a joint statement on Thursday morning, stating, "The Modi government has unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its politicial opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse investigative agencies."
"Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner," said the statement signed by leaders of the Congress, the Shiv Sena, CPI (M), JKNC, and other parties.
"We condemn this and resolve to continue our collective fight against the anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-Constitution policies of the Modi Sarkar that is destroying the social fabric of our society," the statement asserted.
Gandhi had earlier been summoned to appear before the ED on 8 June, but the date was deferred after she contracted COVID-19.
Traffic Movement Restricted, High Security Outside HQ
The Delhi Police has imposed traffic restrictions in areas around the Congress headquarters and the ED office in the capital city, in anticipation of the demonstrations.
"Kindly avoid Gol Methi junction, Tughlak Road Junction, Claridges Junction, Q-point Junction, Sunehri Masjid Junction, Maulana Azad Road Junction & Man Singh Road Junction between 0900 hrs & 1400 hrs on 21.07.22," the traffic police had said in a statement.
Heavy security has been deployed outside the party headquarters as well.
"We know the law is the same for everyone. This is not true in this regime. The rules are different for those in the BJP, and those in the Opposition," Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot had said at a press conference earlier in the day.
The party had earlier alleged that the Delhi Police was preventing the media from entering the AICC headquarters and said that this "high-handedness" reflects the mindset of the Narendra Modi government.
DCP New Delhi Amrutha Guguloth, however, had denied the claim.
'Their ED, Their Police, Their Lathi...': Congress' Poem on Morning of Questioning
"Their ED, their police, their lathi, their bullet, their corruption, their words. We have with us the Constitution, the truth, courage, patience, and the public," the Congress tweeted on Thursday morning.
"They (the Congress) come from that tradition, who raised the tricolor of freedom...," the party said in a poem posted on Twitter ahead of the interrogation. "You won't be able to touch us," the verse read in Hindi.
A meeting of senior party leaders was held at the residence of Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday to chalk out the party's strategy for dealing with the "misuse" of the ED by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.
Meanwhile, BJP MP RS Prasad said, "Today this Congress's satyagraha is not a satyagraha. The truth is that Sonia Gandhi ji and Rahul Gandhi are on bail and these people have lost the case in High Court and Supreme Court."
What Is the National Herald Case?
The ED wanted to record the statements of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The summons to the Gandhis came after the probe agency questioned Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal in relation to the case.
The questioning of the senior Congress leaders and the Gandhis is part of the ED's investigation to understand the shareholding pattern, financial transactions, and role of the promoters of Young Indian and AJL, officials had said.
The agency registered a fresh case under the criminal provisions of the PMLA after a trial court in Delhi took cognisance of an Income Tax Department probe against Young Indian Pvt Ltd on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
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