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CM lands under SC lens

New Delhi/Ranchi, March 25: Chief minister Hemant Soren has to contend with facing fresh trouble as the Supreme Court has ordered an inquiry into how the JMM leader allegedly purchased tribal land in Dhanbad district despite being a resident of neighbouring Bokaro.

The apex court yesterday directed the Dhanbad deputy commissioner to file an affidavit, explaining whether the chief minister had illegally purchased tribal land in the district. A bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen was hearing a petition filed by one Ramesh Kumar Rahi, a JVM worker.

Appearing for Jharkhand government, attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati termed the PIL “politically motivated” as the seven-year-old land purchase deal was being highlighted ahead of Lok Sabha elections. But the bench rejected it.

“If tribals’ land is being sold illegally, then they (tribals) will turn into Naxalites. If there are allegations, they need to be probed. We just can’t brush them under the carpet,” Justice Sen told Vahanvati.

Petitioner Rahi had moved the apex court, challenging a Jharkhand High Court judgement of October 19, 2013.

The high court had imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Rahi as “cost” of filing a frivolous public interest litigation (PIL), alleging illegal tribal land transfers and targeting the chief minister without furnishing enough evidence.

A high court division bench of acting Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice S. Chandrashekhar had been hearing Rahi’s petition that sought an independent CBI probe into alleged illegal transfer of tribal land in Jharkhand.

His counsel Rajeshwar Pandey had then told the court that tribal land had been transferred in the state without following proper procedures and alleged that Hemant had acquired plots in Dhanbad in violation of the law.

He said provisions of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act had been given a complete miss and land had been transferred in connivance with government officials, who also flouted the law to favour a select few.

However, the high court bench back then was not satisfied with Pandey’s arguments as they were not backed by valid documents.

But, sources said Hemant had bought as many as 14 plots in Govindpur block of Dhanbad, many of which belonged to tribals. The matter was even raised in the state Assembly a couple of years ago.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Dhanbad deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar today said he had not got any court order yet.

“I have read in newspapers about the apex court’s directive. But I am yet to receive a copy of the court’s order. Let me first get it, a proper inquiry will be done,” Kumar said.