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SC questions maintainability of ex-CM Soren’s plea against ED arrest

New Delhi, May 21, 2024
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren if he could question the validity of his arrest after a special court has taken cognisance of the ED’s complaint and his bail plea has been rejected in the money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

A Vacation Bench, presided over by Justice Dipankar Datta, was considering the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Soren’s plea assailing his arrest by the ED on the grounds that the alleged illegal possession of the land cannot be probed by the federal agency since it was not a scheduled offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.

During the hearing, the Bench, also comprising Justice SC Sharma, wondered if the legality of arrest could be determined after the order refusing bail recorded that a prime facie case existed against the accused.

Posting the matter for further hearing on Wednesday, the apex court asked Hemant Soren’s counsel to explain if his petition challenging the arrest would be maintainable after the courts below had rejected his bail pleas.

Earlier, the Jharkhand High Court dismissed the writ petition filed by the JMM leader against the ED arrest, saying that “there is an abundance of documents that lay a foundation for the arrest and remand of the petitioner to police and judicial custody”.

Last week, the top court refused to consider Soren’s plea seeking interim release to enable him to campaign during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

However, it had asked the ED to file its reply, including the interim relief, by May 20.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Soren, had argued that there exists “no material” against the JMM leader and the money laundering case is based on oral statements stating that the land in question belongs to the former Chief Minister.

Opposing this, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju, representing the ED, had stated that Soren was directly involved and he could not be released on interim bail since he was arrested way before the Lok Sabha election schedule was announced.

Hemant Soren resigned from the chief minister’s post on January 31, after the ED informed him that it was arresting him in a money laundering case.(Agency)

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