17 Sep 2023 10:42 AM GMT
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has moved the Supreme Court of India against the latest summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case. The chief minister and leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) had earlier approached the apex court challenging the summons issued previously by the central agency, asking him to appear for...
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has moved the Supreme Court of India against the latest summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case. The chief minister and leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) had earlier approached the apex court challenging the summons issued previously by the central agency, asking him to appear for questioning in connection with this money laundering investigation involving the fraudulent sale of land parcels in Ranchi.
Soren has now filed an application through Advocate-on-Record Shweta Singh Parihar alleging that the Enforcement Directorate continued issuing summons despite the legal challenge in the Supreme Court. In his recent plea seeking a stay on and the quashing of the latest summons, the chief minister has assailed the ‘repeated’ summonses as ‘politically motivated’ to ‘browbeat, humiliate and intimidate’ him. Apart from being ‘derogatory, unwarranted, and illegal’, these summonses, according to Soren, also have the effect of undermining the high office of a chief minister of a state. In this connection, he has further pointed out that the summonses have allegedly been addressed to him as the Jharkhand chief minister, and not in an individual capacity.
“…The reference to the petitioner and seeking his attendance as the ‘Chief Minister of Jharkhand’ is not only unwarranted but is highly demeaning and insulting of the office which he is holding. The perusal of the summons itself exposes the political motive and the agenda of the Enforcement Directorate which by its actions have undermined the purpose for which it was constituted as a statutory authority.”
The central agency, Soren has claimed, is functioning at the central government’s behest to ‘hound’ prominent opposition leaders. This ‘targeting’ has allegedly picked up pace in view of the upcoming general elections and after the formation of the opposition front called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA. The application states –
“The Enforcement Directorate has been reduced to a political tool [being] weaponised to silence the opposition in this country. The central government is using the Enforcement Directorate to target opposition leaders who are not towing the lines of the government and this targeting has picked up pace with the date of General Elections fast approaching and the formation of the opposition alliance I.N.D.I.A. against the ruling National Democratic Alliance…With the General Elections approaching soon, the political atmosphere in the country has been vitiated by the ruling regime and all efforts have been made to threaten, humiliate, and intimidate the political leaders, particularly, when the opposition has united to form I.N.D.I.A. alliance. The timing of the impugned summons is parallel to the I.N.D.I.A. Alliance Mumbai meeting held on September 1.”
Soren has consequently argued that the Enforcement Directorate needs to be ‘restrained’ by the Supreme Court and its functioning monitored “to ensure that such brazen misuse of the investigating machinery is not permitted”.
“It is essential, so as to maintain the rule of law in a democracy, that the powers of the [Enforcement Directorate] be cribbed, cabined, confined, and regulated by [the Supreme Court] so as to lay down the norms for it to operate as it is otherwise, brazenly misusing its powers to target persons who are not favourably positioned with the ruling regime.”
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi is slated to hear the writ petition filed by Soren challenging the earlier summonses issued by the central agency tomorrow, i.e., Monday, September 18.
The case revolves around allegations of money laundering connected with an illegal mining case, as well as an alleged land scam in Ranchi, Jharkhand. The Enforcement Directorate is investigating both cases, and several individuals, including an IAS officer and businessmen, have already been arrested in connection with the land scam case.
With respect to the first case, the Jharkhand chief minister was questioned by the central agency in November last year. On August 14, 2023, Soren was summoned again to its zonal office in Ranchi for questioning in connection with the ongoing money laundering case related to the fraudulent sale of land parcels in the state capital. Criticising this move as ‘politically motivated’, the minister demanded the withdrawal of the summons. But, the ED rejected his allegations and issued a second summons for August 24. Reportedly, Soren skipped the second ED summons and instead filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging it. During the petition’s pendency, the central agency has allegedly issued further summonses to the Jharkhand chief minister, asking him to appear in person for questioning, at the Enforcement Directorate’s zonal office in Ranchi.
Hemant Soren v. Union of India & Anr. | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 378 of 2023