18 Sep 2023 8:24 AM GMT
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren agreed to withdraw his writ petition against summonses by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case, after the Supreme Court on Monday expressed its disinclination to entertain the matter. A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi was hearing a plea filed by the minister seeking the quashing of the...
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren agreed to withdraw his writ petition against summonses by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case, after the Supreme Court on Monday expressed its disinclination to entertain the matter.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi was hearing a plea filed by the minister seeking the quashing of the summonses issued earlier 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. Another application was filed by him last week, challenging the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate even after he instituted a legal challenge to the earlier summonses.
Right at the outset of today's hearing, the bench inquired why Soren had not approached the Jharkhand High Court first for relief. In response, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued that there were a number of questions relating to the constitutionality of the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act, 2002 pending in the Supreme Court. Besides this, he also attempted to highlight the arbitrariness of the summonses issued by the Enforcement Directorate, saying, "It's a complete witchhunt."
"Go to the high court," Justice Trivedi told the senior counsel, despite his attempts to persuade the bench. Justice Bose added, "See, the case should be started from the high court in general."
Ultimately, Rohatgi agreed to withdraw the plea filed by the Jharkhand chief minister, after which the bench pronounced, "Mr Rohatgi submits that his client would like to approach the high court for the same reliefs. The present petition is accordingly dismissed as withdrawn with liberty as prayed for."
Additional Solicitor-General SV Raju, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, urged the court to prevent Soren from 're-agitating' issues related to the constitutionality of Sections 50 and 63 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. He also stressed that the plea may not be maintainable at the stage of summoning the petitioner for questioning. However, these arguments did not find favour with the bench. On the maintainability of Soren's legal challenge against the summonses, Justice Trivedi said, "He has all the right to challenge them. We cannot say he cannot challenge the summonses."
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 a 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 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 through Advocate-on-Record Shweta Singh Parihar in the Supreme Court challenging the ED summonses.
During the petition’s pendency, the central agency has issued further summons to the Jharkhand chief minister, asking him to appear in person for questioning at the Enforcement Directorate’s zonal office in Ranchi. Last week, Soren filed a fresh application in the pending matter against the latest summons, branding the ‘repeated’ summonses as ‘politically motivated’ and an attempt to ‘browbeat, humiliate, and intimidate’ him.
Hemant Soren v. Union of India & Anr. | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 378 of 2023
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