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Jharkhand High Court reserves order on bail plea of ex-CM Hemant Soren

Arguments from both Soren's defence team and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have concluded, following which the court reserved its order.
Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 15:46 IST

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Ranchi: The Jharkhand High Court on Thursday reserved its decision on the bail application of former chief minister Hemant Soren, who is currently in jail over allegations related to a money-laundering case linked to a land scam.

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

Soren, arrested by the ED on January 31 in connection with the case, had sought an expedited hearing from the high court.

His legal representative, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, argued that Soren, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha executive president, has been unfairly targeted in what she described as a politically motivated and fabricated case.

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

ED counsel SV Raju, while arguing a case opposing the bail application of Soren, said witnesses who have been examined by the federal agency have confirmed the ex-CM’s involvement in the illegal land deal.

The ED further 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 land.

The ED 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 land and a caretaker was appointed to stay on the land, the agency said.

The ED said it conducted an independent survey of the land and questioned caretaker Santosh Munda, who allegedly said the plot belongs 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 Badgain plot, Raju said.

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

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

Sibal asserted that the accusations against Soren regarding the alleged usurpation of the Bargain plot did not constitute an offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the charge for which Soren was jailed.

He further argued that even if the allegations were true, they would be a matter of civil dispute over property rights, not criminal activity.

Sibal alleged that the criminal proceedings were driven by ulterior motives aimed at keeping Soren incarcerated, accusing the ED of manipulating evidence and fabricating documents to implicate him. He emphasised that Soren was a victim of political vendetta and had been unfairly ensnared without substantial evidence.

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Published 13 June 2024, 15:46 IST

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