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Hemant Soren attempting to misuse state machinery to subvert probe: ED to SC; opposes interim bail plea

A vacation bench headed by Justice Dipankar Datta is scheduled to hear Soren's plea against his arrest and for interim bail on Tuesday

PTI New Delhi Published 20.05.24, 08:43 PM
Hemant Soren

Hemant Soren File

Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren is actively attempting to subvert the probe into the money laundering case against him by "misusing state machinery", the Enforcement Directorate told the Supreme Court on Monday and opposed his "special prayer" for interim bail to campaign in the Lok Sabha polls.

Contending that a politician can claim no special status higher than that of an ordinary citizen, the ED told the apex court that if Soren is granted interim bail for poll campaigning, then all incarcerated politicians would seek a similar treatment claiming that they are a "class of their own".

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A vacation bench headed by Justice Dipankar Datta is scheduled to hear Soren's plea against his arrest and for interim bail on Tuesday.

Emphasising that elections are all-year-round phenomena in the country, the probe agency said no politician can be arrested and kept in judicial custody if Soren's prayer for grant of "special treatment" is acceded to.

In a counter-affidavit filed in Soren's plea against his arrest and seeking interim bail for electioneering, the ED said, "Therefore, there is an active attempt on the part of the petitioner (Soren) to subvert the investigation by misusing state machinery and to project the proceeds of crime as untainted through his stooges." It added the materials on record establish that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader is involved in the acquisition/possession of properties, which are proceeds of crime, illegally.

"Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) alone, presently, there are many politicians who are in judicial custody and their cases are examined by competent courts upholding their custody.

"There must be several political leaders in judicial custody throughout the country in non-PMLA offences. There is no reason why a special prayer for a special treatment by the petitioner be acceded to," the ED said in its 285-page affidavit.

The probe agency said Soren committed the offence of money laundering and was involved in criminal activities related to the proceeds of crime and therefore no case for interim bail is made out.

"Various statements recorded under section 50 of PMLA, 2002, which establish that property admeasuring 8.86 acres, situated at Shanti Nagar, Near Lalu Khatal, Bariyatu (in Ranchi) is under illegal acquisition, possession and use of Hemant Soren and the same has been done in a camouflaged and concealed manner," the agency said.

"It is relevant to note that the right to campaign for an election is neither a fundamental right nor a constitutional right and not even a legal right," the ED underscored.

It emphasised that there is no principle which justifies giving differential treatment to a politician for campaigning over a farmer or a businessman who wishes to pursue his vocation.

"If the petitioner is extended any interim relief on account of him being a politician for the purposes of campaigning in general elections for his party there is no gain saying that all politicians incarcerated in some case or the other would seek a similar treatment claiming that politicians are a class of their own," it said.

The agency said that Soren's arrest on January 31 has been upheld by the Jharkhand High Court and his regular bail application has been dismissed by the trial court on May 13.

"Therefore, as on date, the only legal recourse available to the petitioner is to challenge the order rejecting his bail application before the high court," it said, adding that as long as the order rejecting bail remains unchallenged by Soren, he would be dis-entitled to seek his release.

Seeking dismissal of Soren's plea for interim bail and appeal against the dismissal of his petition challenging arrest, the probe agency said, "He has misused the state machinery and have put them to wrong use to create parallel false evidence in this case and as such, any relief granted to him shall result in influencing witnesses and frustrating the evidence against him." Describing the former chief minister as a "highly influential person", the ED said he has even resorted to filing false cases against the officials under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, to thwart the investigation.

"The petitioner will tamper with the witnesses who have come forward and there is a grave likelihood that he will overawe the witnesses in this case. Hence, the prayer of interim relief is vehemently opposed and may be denied in the interest of investigation," the agency submitted.

On May 13, referring to the top court's order in a money-laundering case involving Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Soren sought interim bail for campaigning in the Lok Sabha election.

In his appeal filed through advocate Praghya Baghel, the JMM leader said the high court had erred in dismissing his plea.

Soren is currently in judicial custody and is lodged in Ranchi's Birsa Munda Central Jail.

The top court granted interim bail to Kejriwal on May 10 in the money-laundering case linked to the alleged Delhi excise scam to enable him to campaign in the Lok Sabha polls. It, however, barred him from visiting his office or the Delhi Secretariat and signing official files, unless absolutely necessary, for obtaining the lieutenant governor's approval.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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