Mining lease inadequate reason for Jharkhand CM Soren’s disqualification: Ex-CJI | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Mining lease inadequate reason for Jharkhand CM Soren’s disqualification: Ex-CJI

May 11, 2022 09:47 AM IST

The Election Commission of India last week sent Soren a notice asking him to explain why he should not be disqualified over the lease

New Delhi: The mining lease granted to Hemant Soren is an inadequate reason for his disqualification from the state legislature, former chief justice of India Justice VN Khare has said in his response to the opinion the Jharkhand chief minister sought in the matter.

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. (HT PHOTO)
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. (HT PHOTO)

The Election Commission of India (ECI) last week sent Soren a notice asking him to explain why he should not be disqualified. The ECI cited the perusal of documents and said it found the grant to be sufficient grounds for initiating disqualification proceedings. It referred to the Representation of the People Act and said it says “a person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate Government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that Government.’’

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In his 13-page opinion dated May 5, which HT has accessed, Khare said the terms under the Representation of People Act warranting disqualification for office of profit did not apply in Soren’s case because the concerned land was private and not government-owned. “ [It] would neither constitute an agreement for [the] supply of goods to the state nor for [the] execution of work undertaken by the government as contemplated under Section 9 of the Act.’’

Khare, who did not respond to HT’s requests for comments, cited Supreme Court judgements and concluded Soren’s case would not attract disqualification. “[...] any action would be unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary and repugnant to the settled views of the Supreme Court...”

The mining lease was renewed last year in the name of Soren, who has sought more time to respond to ECI.

The documents related to the case show Soren was first awarded the lease in 2008 when Madhu Koda was the Jharkhand chief minister. Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was then a part of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former chief minister Raghubar Das first raised the matter and maintained the lease was granted on government land near Ranchi.

But Khare said he has been “given to understand that the said land does not belong to the state government, but in fact, is owned by certain private parties.’’ Khare noted that after the lease expired in 2018, it was not renewed and also declared as part of Soren’s nomination papers for the 2019 elections.

Soren applied for the lease renewal two years after he became the chief minister and was granted it in October 2021. Soren surrendered the lease in February as the Opposition raised the matter. Das took up the matter with the Jharkhand governor and the ECI the same month.

Khare wrote it is relevant to note that no mining activity was undertaken after the grant of the lease renewal in 2021.

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