The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No malice for Jha chacha

Ranchi, Dec. 6: The son has no bad words for the man whose “unconfirmed death” led his father to get a life term in prison.

“He was like a family member, very much loyal to us,” was how Hemant Soren, the son of Shibu Soren, described his father’s former private secretary Shashinath Jha.

Soren is lodged in Tihar Jail after a lower court found him guilty of hatching a conspiracy and killing Jha in 1994.

Hemant (32) recalled that he always addressed Jha as “chacha”. “When Jha’s mother was crying on TV for his (Soren’s) head after the court judgment, my mother (Rupi Soren) was in tears. How could it be so when we had helped Jha’s family so much,” wondered Hemant.

He claimed that Jha had family liabilities. “He was also under depression after his wife died in 1993. So we always consoled him and lent our hands to bear his family responsibilities,” Hemant said, adding that he had been to Jha’s house umpteen times.

Hemant rejected the CBI theory that his father had a motive to kill Jha as the latter used to blackmail him after the MPs’ bribery case was unearthed. Rather, he strongly believes that Guruji (as Soren is known) was convicted because he was not defended well. “Soren never took care of the case as he was pretty sure that he was not involved. Moreover, the four DNA tests also proved negative,” he said.

Hemant said the family never hired a big-ticket lawyer to fight the case. The case, in the earlier stage, was trusted to Varun Sinha and Sanjiv Kumar, both from Jharkhand.

Hemant recalled that Jha had the habit of getting tipsy every evening. “But he was always shy to appear before Guruji when drunk. He had great respect for my father. Guruji often chided him for this habit,” he said.

On the Mehta brothers, held guilty by the court of murdering Jha, Hemant said they were not close to Guruji. “But I did not know them properly even after the case was registered,” he said.

But if Jha wasn’t murdered, where did he go' “We tried to search for him. He had a passport but that was missing. The CBI could not resolve this mystery and exhumed an unknown skeleton to prove the charges,” he said.

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