India

India's Gandhis bailed over National Herald case

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi arrive at party headquarters after court appearance in Delhi, 19 Dec Image copyright AP
Image caption Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were granted bail after a brief court appearance

The top leaders of India's opposition Congress party, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, have appeared in court in connection with corruption allegations.

The two members of the Indian political dynasty were granted bail after a few minutes, and the next court date in the case has been set for 20 February.

The mother and son deny misusing party funds to buy a firm that published the now-closed National Herald newspaper.

The case was brought by a member of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Subramanian Swamy says the Gandhis took over the company to try to acquire more than $300m (£200m) in property assets.

'Political vendetta'

Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress, welcomed the decision to grant her and her son bail and said she had no doubt that truth would prevail.

"The current government is deliberately targeting its opposition," Mrs Gandhi said after the hearing. "And it is using government agencies to do that."

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says hundreds of armed security personnel took up position outside the courtroom as the Gandhis made their appearance, accompanied by party members in a show of strength.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among the Congress members present to support the pair.

Sonia Gandhi, born in Italy, is the widow of murdered former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi. His mother Indira - assassinated while in office - and grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru had also served as prime minister.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) was among those supporting the Gandhis
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Swamy alleges Congress leaders used party funds illegally to acquire properties

Rahul Gandhi, who is the party vice-president, accused the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making false allegations against him and his mother and said they would not be defeated.

The National Herald ceased publication in 2008. The party had previously said it wanted to revive the paper, which established in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru.

But Mr Swamy has alleged that the leaders used party funds illegally to acquire the newspaper's properties.

The case has also disrupted the current session of parliament, with Congress MPs accusing the BJP of a "political vendetta".

The BJP has rejected the allegations.

"How is parliament involved if some people have been summoned by a court? You [Gandhis] want to silence the judiciary. You want to intimidate the judiciary. You are telling the judiciary, how dare you summon us," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said.

The Delhi high court had rejected the Gandhis' plea to be exempted from making Saturday's personal appearance in the district court at Patiala House.

Congress lost the general election last year, winning only 44 of the 543 seats after governing India for 10 years.

The BJP won a landslide victory.

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