Trial court has acknowledged evidence against you: Supreme Court to Hemant Soren | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Trial court has acknowledged evidence against you: Supreme Court to Hemant Soren

By, New Delhi
May 22, 2024 01:10 AM IST

The bench delineated the differences between the Soren and Kejriwal cases in the context of their respective bail pleas.

Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Tuesday faced scrutiny from the Supreme Court, which asked how he could contest the validity of his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after a Jharkhand trial court has already acknowledged the existence of prima facie evidence of money laundering against him.

Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. (ANI)
Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. (ANI)

SC grants ED two days to respond to Hemant Soren’s interim bail plea

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The top court underscored the distinctions that set Soren’s case apart from that of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was previously granted interim bail in a money laundering case so that he could campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

When Kejriwal was granted interim bail on May 10, he had not sought regular bail from a trial court, nor had there been any judicial order of cognisance against him in the Delhi excise policy case, pointed out a vacation bench comprising justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma. In contrast, a Jharkhand trial court has taken cognisance of the offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), relying on prima facie incriminating materials against Soren, and his bail plea was rejected, it observed.

As it heard Soren’s petition challenging his arrest by ED in January and seeking interim bail due to the general elections, the top court’s bench posed probing questions to Soren’s legal team, led by senior counsel Kapil Sibal, regarding the validity of his challenge against the ED arrest in connection with an alleged land scam despite a judicial order taking cognisance of offences under PMLA.

The bench highlighted that the April 4 order of a Jharkhand court taking cognisance is based on its prima facie satisfaction on the existence of incriminating material linked to Soren. “Once the cognisance has been taken, one judicial forum has applied its mind and reached a conclusion that prima facie there are materials justifying your arrest. In such a scenario, will another court look into the same materials? There is a judicial decision, and you need to satisfy us that after such an order, this court can still look into materials,” the bench told Sibal.

The detailed queries from the bench followed preliminary objections raised by additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, representing ED, stating there is a marked difference between the case of Kejriwal and Soren because there are judicial orders of cognisance and rejection of bail in the latter’s case. ED has accused Soren of orchestrating a complex scheme to acquire and possess land illegally in Jharkhand.

While Sibal maintained that the order of cognisance should not whittle down a person’s challenge to arrest on the anvils of constitutional principles on liberty, the bench remained emphatic that the trial court’s view could not be disregarded.

“These are findings recorded by a [trial] court in the exercise of its judicial powers. You will have to satisfy us that we can still hear it as a writ petition...after all, this is an imprimatur of prima facie satisfaction of materials for your arrest. Otherwise, the trial court could have released you at that stage,” the bench said.

It also pointed out that Soren’s bail plea was dismissed by the trial court on May 13, which would mean that rejection of his arguments regarding absence of materials to show his prima facie guilt in the case concerned.

The bench delineated the differences between the Soren and Kejriwal cases in the context of their respective bail pleas. It pointed out that the judicial orders of cognisance and rejection of bail in Soren’s case imply that the trial court found grounds to proceed with the case. Kejriwal’s interim bail was granted in the absence of a trial court’s cognisance order, or an application for regular bail, it said.

With rigorous questioning from the bench regarding the legitimacy of contesting Soren’s arrest, Sibal requested for more time to revert with pointed replies. The bench granted this request, adjourning the hearing till Wednesday.

The alleged scam pertains to usurping prime landed parcels in Ranchi by the accused persons by making fake deeds using manufactured identities and falsifying original land records at Circle Offices and Registrar of Assurances (RoA), Kolkata and Circle Offices in Jharkhand, according to the ED charge sheet. ED has reportedly recovered documents related to at least 27 properties of which alleged fake deeds created by the people accused.

ED opposes Hemant Soren’s plea for interim bail to campaign in Lok Sabha polls

Submitting its affidavit on Monday, ED opposed the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader’s request for interim bail to campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, accusing him of attempting to thwart an ongoing money laundering investigation in an alleged land scam by “misusing state machinery” and “through his stooges”. The agency stressed that the JMM leader is involved in the illicit acquisition and possession of properties deemed proceeds of crime and that his conduct disentitle him to any reprieve.

ED also stressed that granting such bail would set a precedent allowing other incarcerated politicians to claim similar privileges, emphasising that elections are a constant feature in India, and accepting Soren’s request would mean no politician could be detained during elections.

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