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SC asks Soren to justify challenge to arrest after rejection of bail in money laundering case

The court fixed the matter for consideration on Wednesday.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 08:18 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 08:18 IST

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, in the money laundering case, to justify if it can examine legality of his arrest since the order refusing bail noted that there is a prima facie case made out against him.

A bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma also said that the Enforcement Directorate has a good case on merits in the matter but it would have to be looked at from a different perspective in view of subsequent developments.

The court fixed the matter for consideration on Wednesday.

Taking up Soren's plea against the High Court's May 3 order, the bench said, “There is a judicial forum order saying that prima facie there is a commission of the offence, what happens to that judicial order?”

The bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Soren, that the judgment in NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha’s case would not help him because of the factual distinction.

On May 15, the Supreme Court ordered the release of Purkayastha, saying that his arrest by the Delhi Police was not valid in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

“We are being called upon to evaluate whether on the basis of material in the possession of the arresting officer at (the time) arrest was warranted or not?.....despite these two orders the challenge to arrest would survive, satisfy us on that,” the bench told Sibal.

Sibal contended that his client was challenging the arrest, which was illegal, and he was not seeking bail or quashing the case.

“I am not asking for bail or quashing. I am not saying cognisance is bad. I am saying the arrest was itself wrong since all material in possession does not make out a case for an arrest," he argued.

"I was arrested on January 31, 2024, and there is nothing against me till that date to invoke PMLA against me. No offence is made out even if everything they (ED) say is accepted. Illegal possession of land is not a scheduled offence. I am saying arrest is itself wrong since all the material in possession does not make out a case for an arrest," Sibal said.

The bench, however, pointed out judicial order by a special court taking cognizance of prima facie commission of offence has not been challenged. Without challenging the special court order, does a petition challenging arrest stand? Why did Soren not challenge the rejection of bail by the high court? Even as Soren’s plea challenging his arrest was pending before the Jharkhand High Court, he filed a separate bail plea which was dismissed, the bench noted.

"What I am asking the court to consider is that whatever material is available under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) does not make out an offence, on January 31, 2024,” Sibal said.

The counsel also said Soren has nothing to do with the case and this is all cooked-up stuff.

Additional solicitor general S V Raju, on behalf of the ED, contended that Soren is not entitled to interim bail and his case is not like the case of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is currently out on interim bail.

The ED argued that the trial court has taken cognisance of the offence and Soren’s bail application was rejected. It maintained that the trial court had formed the opinion that there is a prima-facie case. ED’s counsel contended that Soren’s arrest was not just before polls and he did not challenge the rejection of bail and also the cognisance taken by the court.

The probe against Soren is in relation to an 8.86-acre plot of land in Ranchi that the ED has alleged was illegally acquired by him. The money laundering investigation arose from multiple FIRs registered in land "scam" cases against several people, including state government officials.

Soren was arrested by the ED on January 31.

On May 3, the Jharkhand High Court dismissed Soren's plea challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate.

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Published 21 May 2024, 08:18 IST

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