Supreme Court agrees to expedite hearing of Hemant Soren’s plea against arrest | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Supreme Court agrees to expedite hearing of Hemant Soren’s plea against arrest

May 13, 2024 04:26 PM IST

Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who represented Hemant Soren, emphasised the need for parity with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal

The Supreme Court on Monday gave the Enforcement Directorate (ED) three days to respond to a petition filed by former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren against his arrest in an alleged land scam, agreeing to an expedited hearing in the matter due to the ongoing general elections.

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

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta set the next date for May 17 following a vehement appeal by senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who represented Soren, emphasising the need for parity with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Jailed in connection with a money laundering case, Kejriwal was on May 10 granted interim bail for campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls.

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“Kejriwal’s order covers me completely,” highlighted Sibal, demanding continuity of Soren’s political involvement in election campaigning, especially in the light of the precedent set by the recent interim bail granted to Kejriwal.

Initially, the bench was setting down the matter before a vacation bench on May 20, but Sibal pressed for a shorter date and a hearing before the same bench, highlighting the urgency of the matter due to the ongoing general elections. Sibal even went so far as to say that if the bench postponed the hearing to a later time, he might think about withdrawing the petition.

“Elections will be over. Why should I be prejudiced? This court sent us to the high court. The high court did not deliver its order for more than two months. That’s not our fault... A great injustice has been done to me. This is unfair,” said Sibal.

The senior counsel added that if the bench were not inclined to fast-track Soren’s matter, it should consider granting him interim bail, allowing him to participate effectively in the elections.

But the bench said that it cannot pass such an order without hearing ED. The bench acceded to Sibal’s plea to fix the next hearing in the current week.

In the Delhi excise policy case, the top court on May 10 granted Kejriwal temporary bail until June 1st. The court rejected the ED’s argument that the release for campaigning would imply preferential treatment for politicians, highlighting the significance of elections in a democracy.

On the same day, the court had closed proceedings in a separate petition filed by Soren seeking interim bail because there was a prolonged delay by the Jharkhand high court in deciding his appeal against his arrest by ED in January. The apex court noted that the high court had already rendered a decision on May 3 rejecting Soren’s challenge to his arrest, which has been assailed in an appeal before it.

The court on April 29 issued a notice to ED on Soren’s petition seeking interim bail in a money laundering case lodged by the agency in connection with an alleged land scam in Jharkhand. In his plea, Soren also cited the ongoing general elections while pointing out the high court had failed to deliver its order on his challenge to the ED arrest despite reserving its judgment on February 28.

But three days later, the high court dismissed Soren’s plea, noting that he “cannot wriggle out of the mess” he “created for himself”, adding there is an abundance of documents that lay a foundation for the arrest and remand of the petitioner to police and judicial custody.

A day later, Soren filed an appeal against the May 3 high court order in the apex court, amid the approaching elections in the state on May 13. After the first phase on May 13, the polling in Jharkhand for the Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 20, May 25 and June 1.

The alleged scam pertains to usurping prime landed parcels, including a 4.55-acre defence land at Morabadi Mouza at Ranchi, and a land parcel of 7.6 acres at Hehal, Ranchi – both valued at over 74 crore at the current market price, besides several other land parcels – 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. Overall, ED has recovered documents related to at least 27 properties of which alleged fake deeds were created by the accused people.

Soren’s arrest happened minutes after he resigned as chief minister of the state. ED has claimed that it has evidence that he is the key beneficiary in alleged land-related irregularities in Ranchi, where a network of brokers and businessmen were allegedly working over the years to create fake deeds of landed parcels by forging records in the registrar offices and further selling them off. Soren has denied the charges.

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