Illegal mining row: Relief to Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren as SC sets aside HC order

On August 17, 2022 the bench while reserving verdict had stayed further proceedings pending before the Jharkhand HC.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren (Photo | PTI)
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: In a relief to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, the Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Jharkhand High Court's order accepting pleas seeking an Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe against him for alleged money laundering through several shell companies. The judgement was delivered by a bench of CJI UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia.

They held that the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) against the CM were not maintainable. "We have allowed these two appeals and have set aside the June 3, 2022 order passed by the Jharkhand High Court, holding that these PILs were not maintainable," the bench said.

"Satyamev Jayate," Soren said on Twitter after the Supreme Court's ruling.

On August 17, the apex court bench while reserving a verdict had stayed further proceedings pending before the Jharkhand HC.

The pleas that were referred by Shiv Shankar Sharma before the HC had alleged that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader had given a mining lease to himself when he held the Mining and Environment portfolios.

On June 3, a bench of Justices R Ranjan and Sujit Narayan Prasad had said it was of the considered opinion that writ petitions cannot be thrown away on the ground of maintainability and it will proceed to hear the matters on merit.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state government, had earlier submitted that the high court had decided on maintainability even before all the documents were placed before it.

Terming the issue as “well planned”, Sibal also questioned the ED’s conduct of filing documents in a sealed cover in the absence of incriminating evidence against the JMM leader.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, had said criminal petitions should not be thrown out on technical grounds.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who was Soren's counsel. submitted that PILs levelling allegations that the CM had granted a mining lease to himself were only filed due to the enmity in the Soren family since two decades. Rohatgi further submitted that there wasn’t any real representation in the writ.

BJP national vice president and former Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das in February this year claimed Soren abused his position and granted himself the favour of a mining lease, an issue involving both the conflict of interest and corruption. He also alleged violations of provisions of the Representation of People Act.

Taking cognisance, the Election Commission (EC) sent a notice to Soren in May seeking his version on the matter. Owning a lease violates Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with disqualification for government contracts, etc, EC sources had said.

The issue is still pending with the poll panel.

On August 25, following a petition by the BJP seeking Soren’s disqualification as MLA from the Assembly over office-of-profit charges, the EC had sent its decision to the Jharkhand governor on August 25, sparking a political crisis in the state. The EC’s opinion has not yet been made official. In September, Soren had met governor Ramesh Bais and demanded a copy of the EC's opinion.

The pleas before the Jharkhand High Court had sought a probe into alleged irregularities in the grant of mining lease as also the transactions of some shell companies allegedly linked to the chief minister's family members and associates. Both Soren and JMM have denied the allegations.

(With online desk inputs)

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