Ranchi, Oct. 4: Chief Minister Hemant Soren today went to Palamu to inaugurate a milk plant instead of paying heed to the ED’s fifth summons to answer queries on his role in the multi-crore land scam in Ranchi.
Ironically, Soren, whom the ED had hastily summoned and questioned in the Sahibganj mining scam without any solid proof in November last year, today did not cite any reason for his refusal to go to the agency’s doorstep for questioning in the land scam.
He had earlier asked the ED to wait till the Jharkhand High Court decides on his petition filed to quash the summons. Surprisingly, his lawyer has not mentioned in the court for the urgent hearing of his case.
Incidentally, Soren’s decision to skip the fifth summons came on a day when the Supreme Court ruled in another case that the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) must furnish the reasons for arrest to the accused in writing. This judgement, according to a legal expert, may give some relief when the high court takes up Soren’s case.
The Apex court said that Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act which gives the power to officers of ED to arrest any person guilty of a money laundering offence, uses the expression that the accused shall be ‘informed of the grounds of such arrest’.
“According to Section 19, the authorized officer has to record in writing the reasons for forming the belief that the person proposed to be arrested is guilty of an offence punishable under the Act of 2002. Section 19(2) requires the authorized officer to forward a copy of the arrest order along with the material in his possession, referred to in Section 19(1), to the Adjudicating Authority in a sealed envelope,” the court has said.
Notably, Soren has challenged the summons pleading the high court to stop it on the grounds that it was politically motivated. He has also challenged the powers of ED in his petition.
Soren had also challenged the validity of Sections 50 and 63 of PMLA in the apex court, saying it violates fundamental rights and added that a person summoned for questioning is always under threat of being arrested given the ED’s power to arrest any person under Section 19 of the PMLA. The CM is believed to have made the same arguments before the Jharkhand High Court.
Notably, the ED had sent a summons to Soren to depose at the agency’s office in Ranchi first on August 14 and later to record his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
He had been interrogated for over nine hours by the ED on November 17 last year in connection with another money-laundering case linked to alleged illegal mining in the state.
Soren had earlier pointed out to the ED that he had already provided details of movable and immovable properties owned by him and his family members along with certified copies of the title deeds and his bank accounts during the last round of questioning in November 2022.
However, according to sources, the ED does not want to question him about “non-disclosure of personal assets but about the investigation of assets representing proceeds of crime”.
The central probe agency is investigating more than a dozen land deals, including one related to defence land, wherein a group of mafia, middlemen and bureaucrats allegedly connived to forge deeds and documents as long back as 1932.
The ED has arrested several people so far in the state, including Soren’s political aide Pankaj Mishra.
Now, all eyes are on the next move of the ED which remained tight-lipped today.