| Policemen leave Soren’s house in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
July 21: An arrest warrant, not Sibu Soren, was the most visible occupant of the Union coal minister’s official residence in Delhi today.
Unable to locate Sibu Soren, the coal minister who is wanted in a 30-year-old massacre case, a Jharkhand police team searched his house and pasted a copy of the warrant on the wall.
Soren remained incommunicado for the second day today amid swirling rumours that he had submitted a conditional resignation that will become operative if he is arrested, prompting sources in the Prime Minister’s Office to issue a denial.
Soren’s party colleagues in Delhi said the minister is “out of station” without disclosing where he is.
However, senior JMM leader Stephen Marandi said in Jamshedpur that Soren is currently in Uttaranchal for inspecting mines.
“Soren is not absconding as our Opposition is claiming. His visit to Uttaranchal was decided earlier and he has already left for that state. He would be back as soon as his work there is over,” Marandi said.
The coal minister, who was listed to answer questions relating to his ministry in the Rajya Sabha today, was not present in Parliament. Marandi said Soren had authorised minister of state Dasari Narayana Rao to answer the questions.
This morning, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee announced in the House that the minister had not sought leave. There was no provision for a minister to seek leave, the Speaker said.
JMM sources said Soren is unlikely to “return” till Jharkhand High Court decides on a petition that wants the warrant quashed.
The high court today accepted the plea for early hearing of the criminal writ petition filed on behalf of Soren. With the court’s acceptance of the prayer, the Soren camp is expecting an early hearing.
Soren’s lawyer R.S. Majumdar said the court could constitute an “appropriate bench” to hear the case tomorrow, but other layers said they expected a hearing by next Tuesday. “Mention accepted, hearing will begin tomorrow,” said Majumdar.
JMM sources in Jamshedpur said the Supreme Court would be moved if the high court order went against Soren.
The sources said the party has decided to keep the issue till the Assembly polls, expected in February, since Soren is being persecuted in a case related to the Jharkhand movement.
The coal minister was last seen in public on Monday evening when he had gone to the Speaker’s chamber to meet Chatterjee. He did not appear at a news conference he had called on the same day at his 224 North Avenue flat.
Today, a two-member Jharkhand Police team, headed by superintendent of police Neeraj Sinha and assisted by Delhi police personnel, carried out the search and pasted the notice at Soren’s official residence.
Sinha said that pasting a copy of the arrest warrant was mandatory. “According to the Criminal Procedure Code, if the person against whom a warrant is issued is not found, its photocopy is put up outside his house. With this action, we have completed the responsibility given to us by the court and will inform it of the results,” the Jharkhand police officer said.
In the morning, Sinha had met Delhi police officials seeking their cooperation in executing the arrest warrant.
The ruling Congress also came to Soren’s defence. Dodging questions about the minister’s whereabouts, party spokesman Anand Sharma suspected political motives behind the “sudden” interest shown by the BJP government in Jharkhand, which is the prosecutor, in activating the criminal case against Soren.