Election Commission of India (ECI) sent a notice to Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Monday, asking him to him to explain why action should not be taken against him for issuing a mining lease under his name, stating that prima facie, it appeared to violate section 9A of the Representation of Peoples Act.
Hemant has been asked to send his reply by May 10.
Sources in the chief minister's house have confirmed the development. “We received the letter in the evening. One person flew from Delhi to personally deliver it to CM’s office,” said an official.
BJP's Godda MP Nishikant Dubey tweeted about the letter. "EC has served showcause to chief minister Hemant Soren on granting mining lease under his name. It has also sent a letter to BJP Jharkhand seeking its reply. Both the letters were delivered in person by a messenger. Replies have to be sent by May 10," his tweet in Hindia said.
The chief minister's party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), put up a brave front. “It’s a part of natural justice and the legal team will reply to EC’s notice,” said a senior party spokesperson.
Former legal adviser to ECI, S.K. Mendiratta, speaking to the media at a virtual meeting last Friday, had, however, maintained that having a mining lease needn't be grounds for disqualification/dismissal under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act 1951. He cited a Supreme Court ruling of 1964 and 2001 to back up his observation.
BJP national vice-president and former chief minister Raghubar Das had in February accused Hemant, who also looks after the Jharkhand mining department, of having granted himself a mining lease for stone quarrying in about 88 decimal land in Ranchi’s Angara block in July 2021.
The BJP leader had alleged that Hemant’s application for a stone mining lease was granted by the Ranchi district mining office on July 10, 2021.The BJP is calling the allotment a violation of the provisions of the People’s Representation Act as the district mining office reports to the state mines department of which the chief minister is in charge.
A BJP delegation had also met Jharkhand governor Ramesh Bais, urging him to disqualify Hemant from the Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 for “misusing his official position” for personal gain.
Bais forwarded the memorandum to the ECI to seek its opinion on whether Hemant’s alleged actions came under the purview of “office of profit”.
On April 8, based on a memo sent by Raj Bhavan, the ECI sought details from Jharkhand chief secretary Sukhdev Singh about the mining lease granted to Hemant. It also sought details on mines allotment made to Hemant’s brother Basant Soren. Chief secretary had last week sent all the documents pertaining to the mining lease to the ECI.
Last week, JMM also led a delegation to Raj Bhavan accusing the BJP for spreading rumours to destabilise a democratically elected government. Giridih MLA Suvidya Kumar said, “The BJP is creating rumours to destabilise the elected government. However, it would not succeed. The chief minister would present his position before the EC. If the EC acts arbitrarily under the influence of the central government, we will knock on the door of the high court and the Supreme Court.”