Jharkhand High Court grants bail to former CM Hemant Soren in land scam case

Opposing the bail, ED’s lawyer had said that Hemant Soren is an influential person and he had made every effort to save himself by using state machinery.
Former Jharkhand CM and JMM leader Hemant Soren.
Former Jharkhand CM and JMM leader Hemant Soren. (PTI Photo)

RANCHI: In a major relief to former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, the Jharkhand High Court on Friday granted bail to him in the land scam case. After hearing both sides on June 13, the court of Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay had kept its order reserved which was pronounced on Friday.

Soren is currently under judicial custody after being arrested by ED on January 31 in a money laundering case linked to the land scam. Soren, after rejection of his interim bail plea and subsequent withdrawal of his petition from the Supreme Court, has moved the Jharkhand High Court seeking a regular bail for him.

Senior Advocate, SV Raju, appearing on behalf of ED, had told the court during hearings that since Hemant Soren is the largest beneficiary of the scam, he should not be granted bail. Raju alleged that Hemant Soren has illegally occupied 8.86 acres of land in Bargain area, which is money laundering under the provisions of PMLA 2002.

Opposing the bail, ED’s lawyer had said that Hemant Soren is an influential person and he had made every effort to save himself by using state machinery. If granted bail, Soren may try to obstruct the investigation by misusing the state machinery, he said. Raju had told the court there was a plan to build a banquet hall on the said land located in Bargain and a map was also sent on Hemant Soren’s mobile phone by Architect Vinod Singh.

Moreover, Vinod Singh had also identified the said land by conducting a survey on the behest of Soren’s media advisor Abhishek Prasad ‘Pintu’, he said. According to Raju, Revenue Sub-Inspector Bhanu Pratap Prasad has also admitted in his statement that on the instructions received from the Chief Minister's Office, he had provided a detailed report of the said land located in Bargain.

In addition to that, Hillarius Kacchap had also helped Hemant Soren in illegal occupation of this land. Meenakshi Arora on other hand, appearing on behalf of Hemant Soren, said that this is not a case of money laundering, rather it is a case of political vendetta and is a malicious prosecution by the central government misusing the investigating agency i.e. Enforcement Directorate.

The allegations made by ED that a banquet hall was being planned, does not relate to the 8.86 acres of land, for which Hemant Soren is being prosecuted. Meenakshi Arora further said that the investigation of the case is still pending. She is pleading for the bail right now; there is no need to go into the merit of the case at the moment, she said.

The ED is probing the alleged "huge amounts of proceeds of crime generated by manipulation of official records by showing dummy sellers and purchasers in the guise of forged/bogus documents to acquire huge parcels of land having value in crores."

Meanwhile, the ED so far has provisionally attached tainted land parcels worth Rs 266 crore (Commercial Value) and has arrested 22 accused persons including IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan, Bhanu Pratap Prasad (Revenue Sub-Inspector), Amit Kumar Agarwal, Prem Prakash among others in the money laundering case linked to land scam.

According to ED, three Prosecution Complaints have been filed in the cases of land scams presently under investigation in the State. The probe against Soren pertains to an 8.86-acre plot of land in Ranchi that the ED has alleged was illegally acquired by him.

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