The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the proceedings in the Jharkhand High Court on PILs filed against Chief Minister Hemant Soren, accusing him of money laundering and irregularities while granting mining leases, and also reserved its verdict on pleas filed by the state government and Soren challenging the maintainability of the PILs before the high court.
A bench headed by justice U.U. Lalit and comprising justices Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said: “Order reserved… Since the court is seized of the matter, the high court shall not proceed further with writ petitions…”
The state government and Soren had moved the top court against the high court order, which accepted the maintainability of PILs seeking ED/CBI probe against Soren.
After hearing the arguments, the top court was prima-facie of the view that neither the petitioner nor the ED could establish their case, and asked the ED why it was firing from a PIL petitioner’s shoulders, if it were to have strong evidence in the matter.
The top court also refused to accept “evidence in sealed cover”, and instead asked the ED to establish prima-facie case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Jharkhand government, questioned the maintainability of the PILs, saying that the petitioner did not file an FIR, instead approached the high court in the matter.
Also, the PIL was not in consonance with the Jharkhand High Court PIL rules. Sibal argued that the high court decided on the maintainability even before all the documents were before it.
The top court noted that Soren already had these lands before he assumed office and it is not as if the office was misused to amass wealth. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Chief Minister, pointed out that there was no prima facie satisfaction of the high court in the matter.
Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, representing the Enforcement Directorate (ED), submitted before the top court that the petitions should not be thrown out on technical grounds, and technicality should not come in the way in the matter.
In June, the Jharkhand High Court had ruled that two petitions seeking CBI and ED probe against Soren in connection with the alleged irregularities in the grant of mining leases and transactions of some shell companies are maintainable.
The state government and the Chief Minister then moved the apex court challenging the high court order.
PILs were filed against Soren and his family members. The matter pertains to a stone mining lease granted by Soren to himself in 2021, which he surrendered on February 4 this year. The other PIL alleged that Soren and his family members allegedly parked unaccounted money in shell companies through their associates.