Ranchi/Jamtara, July 19: A criminal writ petition was filed before the high court on behalf of Union coal minister Sibu Soren soon after a warrant to arrest and produce him before a court was handed over to the superintendent of police at Jamtara on Monday.
The petition prays for quashing the warrant and passing orders for the withdrawal of the case against him and 69 other accused, 25 of who are said to have died along with 20 witnesses since January 1975 when the case was first instituted.
Attempts by Soren’s lawyers to mention the petition today for an early hearing failed when the chief justice of Jharkhand High Court, P.K.I. Balasubramanyan, turned down their request.
The petition will again be mentioned on Tuesday, the lawyers indicated.
The state’s advocate-general, A.K. Sinha, told reporters that merely by filing the petition, the minister has not obtained any immunity from being arrested. “The warrant is still alive and police can execute the warrant till such time when the high court stays it. Therefore, Soren can be arrested,” he said.
Challenging the criminal proceedings initiated against him, Soren’s petition said it was wrong to issue a warrant of arrest against him without issuing any prior summons or notice to him in the case.
After securing a regular bail, Soren pleaded, he had no information or knowledge whatsoever about how or when his bail was cancelled by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court at Jamtara.
The lower court had not deemed it fit to serve him a summons after apparently cancelling his regular bail in June 1986, he said.
The petition also prayed for directions to the state government to withdraw the case as it was political in nature and related to the movement for a Jharkhand state.
Several such cases, the petition pointed out, had already been withdrawn by the state government.
Tension is building up in several parts of the state, where JMM workers hit the streets to protest against the alleged conspiracy to discredit Soren.
In both Ranchi and Jamshedpur, JMM workers, carrying swords and other traditional weapons, held demonstrations, complaining about their leader being “framed”.
They raised slogans against the state government and the BJP for falsely implicating Soren in the case.
R.S. Mazumdar, Soren’s lawyer, refused to divulge information, pleading that “it is not proper to discuss the issue in the open since the matter is subjudice now”.
JMM leaders and workers thronged the court when Soren’s lawyers filed the petition for quashing the case against him.
They were seen confabulating with lawyers and making enquiries about the fate of “Guruji”.
Earlier in the day, the warrant of arrest of Sibu Soren and nine others accused along with him in the Chirudih massacre case of 1975 was formally sent to Jamtara superintendent of police Shashi Nath Jha for execution.
The warrant has been issued in continuation of the earlier orders of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Jamtara on 1986.
Sources at the district police headquarters confirmed that they had received the orders today from the court but refused to divulge their strategy.
The sources, however, said since Soren is a member of Parliament and a Cabinet minister, permission would have to sought from the Lok Sabha Speaker for arresting the tribal leader.
Necessary formalities in this direction have already been initiated at the government level, the sources added.
Soren’s counsel Sanjeev Kumar Mahata pleaded before the court for the certified copies of the case file along with the vakalatnama of a senior Supreme Court lawyer and Congress leader.
Chief minister Arjun Munda, asked to comment on the issue, said the law will take its own course.
“The state administration will seek the Lok Sabha Speaker’s permission to arrest Soren if the court wished Soren to be presented before it,” the chief minister said.
Asked if he was “protecting” his old “guru, guide and philosopher” that Soren is, Munda shot back: “I am holding a constitutional position. How can I interfere with the court’s proceedings against someone'”
Soren’s lawyers have also decided to challenge the “dying declaration” of Lakhindra Soren. Lakhindra, they claim, died 29 years after his “dying declaration” was recorded.