SC refuses to entertain Hemant Soren’s plea challenging ED arrest, interim bail | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC refuses to entertain Hemant Soren’s plea challenging ED arrest, interim bail

May 22, 2024 01:42 PM IST

The court’s refusal to entertain the petition effectively means that Soren will have to challenge the rejection of his bail by the trial court on May 13 before the state high court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to entertain a petition by former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, who sought to challenge his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in money laundering case and requested interim bail to campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, berating Soren for concealing key facts and engaging in “blameworthy conduct”.

ED has accused Soren of orchestrating a complex scheme to acquire and possess land illegally in Jharkhand. (ANI file photo)
ED has accused Soren of orchestrating a complex scheme to acquire and possess land illegally in Jharkhand. (ANI file photo)

A vacation bench of justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma criticised Soren for not disclosing in his petitions that a trial court in Jharkhand had already taken cognisance of the money laundering charges against him on April 4.

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Furthermore, the bench was irate that Soren was concurrently pursuing a parallel remedy by seeking bail from the trial court even as he pressed for interim bail in the Supreme Court.

“We expected some candour from your client. We should have been informed that your bail was already pending when you approached this court... You were pursuing parallel remedies. You had applied for bail before the trial court and you also came to the Supreme Court seeking interim bail... We doubt your client was acting in bonafide, the bench told senior counel Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader.

While Sibal tried to defend Soren saying the JMM should not be made to pay for any possible default on the part of his lawyers, the bench pointed out that crucial facts about the cognisance order and bail plea before the Jharkhand trial court were found missing not only from Soren’s present petition but also from the last one that complained against the Jharkhand high court’s delay in deciding his challenge to the ED arrest. The previous petition was withdrawn on May 10 after the high court delivered its ruling earlier that month rejecting Soren’s petition.

“When you sought withdrawal of the petition on May 10, even at that point, it was not brought to our notice that the cognisance has already been taken... your conduct leaves a lot to be desired. You have approached this court under writ jurisdiction. This is not the way you try to come before the court without disclosing true facts. Even in your present petition, there is not a whisper of the cognisance order,” the court said.

Also Read: Trial court has acknowledged evidence against you: Supreme Court to Hemant Soren

It was additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, who pointed out that the present petition by Soren has also failed to list out the events of cognisance order and rejection of bail in the list of dates even though the plea was filed subsequent to these developments.

Responding, Sibal argued that it was his understanding that the April 4 order of taking cognisance or dismissal of bail by the trial court on May 13 could not come in the way of his challenge to the validity of arrest, which was premised on the points of law and Constitutional issues.

But the bench emphasised the importance of full transparency and adherence to judicial processes.

“Your detention was pursuant to an executive act but after a court has taken cognisance, it has transformed into a judicial act. Why is it that in none of your petitions, you disclose that the cognisance has been taken? It has entered the judicial arena once cognisance is taken,” said the bench, adding it cannot simply brush aside the order of cognisance which is based on its prima facie satisfaction on the existence of incriminating material linked to Soren.

It pointed out that the Supreme Court could have still decided to hear Soren out but what was required on his part was to come to the court with clean hands, making full disclosure of the facts.

“Your conduct is not free of blemish. You are coming to this court with blameworthy conduct,” said the bench, as it proceeded to dismiss Soren’s plea with a finding that the JMM leader did not approach the top court with clean hands.

At this point, Sibal requested the bench to let him withdraw the plea without any adverse remarks against his client. The court allowed Sibal’s request.

The court’s refusal to entertain the petition effectively means that Soren will have to challenge the rejection of his bail by the trial court on May 13 before the state high court.

The bench’s decision also highlights the apex court’s stance on maintaining judicial propriety and discouraging the practice of seeking similar remedies from multiple courts without full disclosure.

ED has accused Soren of orchestrating a complex scheme to acquire and possess land illegally in Jharkhand.

The alleged case 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.

During the hearing of Soren’s plea demanding annulment of his arrest and an interim bail in the meantime to enable him to campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the court had on Tuesday put probing questions to his legal team, asking how he could contest the validity of his arrest by ED after the trial court has already acknowledged the existence of prima facie evidence of money laundering against him.

The bench 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 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 the bench on Tuesday.

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.

With rigorous questioning from the bench, Sibal requested some time to revert with replies, prompting the bench to adjourn the hearing till Wednesday.

While ASG Raju did not need to argue the case on merits following the bench’s indisposition to entertain Soren’s plea, ED had on Monday submitted its affidavit, accusing Soren of attempting to thwart an ongoing money laundering investigation in the case 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 disentitles him to any reprieve.

ED also contended 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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