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Jharkhand High Court grants bail to former CM Hemant Soren in money laundering case

The high court had on June 13 reserved its decision on Soren's bail plea.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 06:28 IST

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Ranchi: The Jharkhand High Court on Friday granted bail to former Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a money laundering case linked to a land scam.

The high court had on June 13 reserved its order on Soren's bail plea.

"...The petitioner is directed to be released on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs 50,000 with two sureties of the like amount each," said the order passed by the single bench of Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay.

Soren, the executive president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on January 31 in connection with its investigation into the money laundering case.

The 48-year-old politician has been lodged in Birsa Munda jail.

"The court has held that prima facie he is not guilty of the offence and there is no likelihood of the petitioner committing an offence when on bail," Soren's senior counsel Arunabh Chowdhury told PTI.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the court's order granting bail to Soren.

As the order granting bail to Soren came, JMM and Congress workers were seen here distributing sweets among themselves.

During the hearing, ED's counsel SV Raju argued that if Soren is released on bail, he may commit a similar offence, referring to cases against ED officers in the SC/ST police station.

"Though the conduct of the petitioner has been sought to be highlighted by the Enforcement Directorate on account of the First Information Report instituted by the petitioner against the officials of the ED but on an overall conspectus of the case, there is no likelihood of the petitioner committing a similar nature of offence," the court said.

The single bench order also mentioned that the consequence of the findings recorded by the court "satisfies the condition as at section 45 PMLA, 2002 to the effect that there is reason to believe that the petitioner is not guilty of the offence as alleged".

Arguments from both Soren's defence team and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had concluded, following which the court had reserved its order.

The ED counsel Zoheb Hossain asked for a stay on the implementation of the judgement for 48 hours to move the Supreme Court, which has been rejected by the high court, lawyers said.

Soren had sought an expedited hearing from the high court.

Meanwhile, a JMM minister and Soren's younger brother Basant Soren along with the party's central general secretary Binod Pandey reached the Civil Court to complete the formalities of furnishing bail bonds.

The bail bonds will be furnished in the court of special PMLA judge Rajiv Ranjan.

Soren's legal representative senior advocate Meenakshi Arora had earlier argued that the JMM leader had been unfairly targeted in what she described as a "politically motivated" and "fabricated" case.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also representing Soren, had argued strongly for the former chief minister's bail, contending that he was falsely implicated in a criminal case by the central agency.

The ED, opposing Soren's bail plea, alleged that he misused his position as the chief minister to "unlawfully" acquire 8.86 acres in Bargain anchal in the state capital.

The ED counsel, while opposing the bail application of Soren, had earlier said the witnesses, who were examined by the federal agency, had alleged the ex-CM’s involvement in the illegal land deal.

The agency had claimed that during the probe, Soren's media consultant Abhishek Prasad admitted that the former CM instructed him to manipulate official records to change the ownership details of the plot.

The ED also claimed that the original owner of the land, Raj Kumar Pahan, had tried to lodge a complaint when his land was being usurped, but it was never acted upon.

On the contrary, a boundary wall was constructed around the plot and a caretaker was appointed to stay on the land, the agency said.

The central agency also said it conducted an independent survey of the land parcel and questioned caretaker Santosh Munda, who allegedly said that the plot belonged to Hemant Soren.

The ED also quizzed architect Vinod Kumar and claimed that the proposed plan for construction of a banquet hall was recovered from his mobile phone and the location and dimension of the land matched with the Bargain plot, Raju had said.

Soren had been summoned multiple times by the ED before being questioned at his residence and subsequently arrested on January 31.

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Published 28 June 2024, 06:28 IST

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