National Herald publisher challenges Centre’s order ending office lease

The plea, challenging the October 30 order of the Urban Development Ministry ending the lease and asking it to vacate the premises by November 15, is scheduled to come up for a hearing Tuesday before Justice Sunil Gaur.

Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper, approached the Delhi High Court on Monday challenging the Centre’s order ending its 56-year-old lease and asking it to vacate the premises in the press enclave at ITO here.

The plea, challenging the October 30 order of the Urban Development Ministry ending the lease and asking it to vacate the premises by November 15, is scheduled to come up for a hearing Tuesday before Justice Sunil Gaur.

The plea sought quashing of the Land and Development Office’s order on the ground that it was “illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary, tainted with malafide and without authority and jurisdiction”.

“The petitioner (AJL) has been in lawful possession of the demised premises for the last 56 years (since 1962) and the respondent (Centre) vide the impugned order, seek to dispossess the petitioner and re-enter the premises…,” said the petition, filed through advocates Sunil Fernandes and Priyansha Indra Sharma.

It also said the Centre has warned them of action under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, if they failed to vacate the premises.

One of the grounds mentioned in the L&DO order is that no press has been functioning in the premises for last at least 10 years and that it is being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed.

This allegation has been refuted by AJL in the petition filed by the firm and its company secretary.

“The requirement of running a press cannot mean that all press and printing-related activities have to necessarily be conducted at the same premises, that is, demised premises. The imperatives of prudent commercial business operations may necessitate that the petitioner company utilise the infrastructure or the premises at some other place as a supplement to their operations in the present demised premises,” the plea said.

According to the petition, AJL initially received a show cause notice from L&DO in June this year which was based on an inspection carried out in April.

It claimed that the inspection was not conducted to ascertain whether there was any printing activity at the premises.

AJL gave a detailed reply to the notice on July 16 and October 9 saying that printing activity was carried out by it over the last several decades and also as on date of issuance of the notice, it said.

As per the petition, the digital versions of English newspaper ‘National Herald’, Hindi’s ‘Navjivan’ and Urdu’s ‘Qaumi Awaz’ have commenced since 2016-17.

The weekly newspaper ‘National Herald on Sunday’ was resumed from September 24 last year and the place of publication was the ITO premises, the petition claimed, and added that the Hindi weekly newspaper ‘Sunday Navjivan’ was also being published since October this year from the same premises.

“The necessary licenses and authorisations for the purposes of publication were also placed on record, in particular, the necessary licenses have been obtained by the petitioner (AJL),” it said.

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