The Supreme Court stated right away that the hearing of both PILs against Hemant Soren in the Jharkhand High Court was a “abuse of this court’s process.” This is why:
On Monday (November 7), the Supreme Court of India have ruled that the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed in the Jharkhand High Court (HC) against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren were not maintainable, which meant that the PILs would not be heard on merits by the Jharkhand HC.
The Supreme Court chastised the Jharkhand High Court for hearing the PILs and taking cognizance on the basis of general submissions, describing it as a “abuse of the Court’s process.”
In connection with its investigation into alleged illegal mining in the current state, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summoned Soren again on Wednesday (November 9) and asked him to appear at its same regional office in Ranchi on November 17.
PILs in which the petition’s maintainability was challenged in the Supreme Court
Two petitions filed against Soren were denied. One of these claimed Soren granted himself a mining lease while in charge of the mining portfolio and sought legal action for alleged misappropriation of public office. The other petition accused CM Soren and his family of money laundering through shell companies and asked for a federal investigation.
What was the Supreme Court’s decision?
The High Court then heard all the three petitions concurrently, citing the “siphoning of vast sums of public money.” “An extremely serious issue has been raised in the PILs and where there are allegations of large-scale corruption,” according to the High Court. While there were some procedural irregularities in the filing of the current PIL, the court “deems it fit and proper not to dismiss the writ petition,” according to the HC.
The petitioner, Shiv Shankar Sharma, also has no direct or indirect personal interest in the subject matter of the PILs, according to the HC.
What did the Supreme Court say about the petitions?
The Supreme Court immediately stated that the hearing of both PILs was a “abuse of this court’s process.”
In the PIL on the alleged shell companies, the court stated that the petitioner had requested an investigation by the current court, which is “again an abuse of the Court’s process, as the petition is short of wild and also sweeping allegations, and there is nothing to be placed before the Court which in different way may be also called to be prima facie evidence.”
What did the Supreme Court have to say about the actions of the Jharkhand High Court?
The Jharkhand High Court was chastised by the Supreme Court for its handling of the two PIL hearings. The Supreme Court emphasized that they are not saying that people “in high positions should not be investigated,” but that “for a High Court to take the cognizance of the matter on these generalised submissions that do not even satisfy the Court prima facie is nothing but an abuse of the Court’s process.”
The Supreme Court ruled that courts cannot be used to investigate alleged wrongdoings by high constitutional officials. “It was not to be proper for the High Court to entertain a PIL based on mere allegations and half-baked truth,” the Supreme Court added.
What does this mean for Sorent’s government?
With several ED raids ongoing and the arrest of Soren’s main political aide Pankaj Mishra for all alleged illegal mining, the SC relief is only temporary. Soren was summoned by the ED in another illegal mining case in Sahebganj, but he has yet to appear. He received a new summons on Wednesday.
In the prosecution complaints filed in Ranchi’s special court, the ED may raise a few specific questions about Soren. The ED, for example, stated that it recovered from Mishra’s possession “two signed cheques and all 31 blank cheques all the pertaining to Hemant Soren held with the Bank of India.”
Mishra was transferred to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in the city Ranchi while in judicial custody due to health complications, according to ED sources. He did, however, make several calls from the hospital to “a very few persons in authority,” which the ED is investigating.
Former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) treasurer called Ravi Kejriwal stated in his statement to the ED that he overheard the CM “asking Mishra to hand over the funds collected from mining activity to middleman Prem Prakash, who would then hand it over to Kolkata-based businessman Amit Aggarwal.”
What are the three PILs filed with the Supreme Court?
One of them, filed on the behalf of the petitioner Arun Kumar Dubey, alleges financial irregularities in the MGNREGA scheme in 2010. The Enforcement Directorate also arrested Jharkhand Mining Secretary Pooja Singhal and Soren’s aide Pankaj Mishra in the case.
The other two were filed on behalf of petitioner Shiv Kumar Sharma.
CM Soren and his family are accused of using shell companies to launder money. The second describes how Hemant Soren obtained a mining lease while holding the Mining portfolio. In all three cases, the lawyer is Rajeev Kumar.
What are the basic prayers of the three pleas?
The petitioner has asked that the ED, CBI, and Income Tax department look into the shell companies.
In the mining lease petition PIL seeks action against CM and Mining Minister Hemant Soren for alleged misuse of public office in granting mining lease in his own name.
While the ED is already investigating the alleged 2010 MGNREGA scam, petitioner Arun Kumar Dubey has requested an ED investigation, pointing out that despite 16 FIRs filed against IAS officer Pooja Singhal, who was the DC at the time of the alleged scam in 2010, the state has taken no action.
Why is the High Court hearing all three PILs concurrently?
Rajeev Kumar, an attorney, previously told The Indian Express that all three petitions are related.
During the hearing, the ED stated that it discovered material with “startling revelations” and alleged involvement of “higher ups” during its search operations.
Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, stated that the alleged involvement of Pooja Singhal, Secretary of Mines, State of Jharkhand, was discovered while investigating the MGNREGA scam.
He went on to say that her participation was even discovered in the material allotment of lease in favor of Hemant Soren (PIL 727/2022). Mehta claimed in court that the ED investigation revealed the role of some of the companies mentioned in the shell companies PIL.
He also told the court that “in the current context, the grant of various leases is intertwined with the shell companies that are being investigated for the purpose of laundering ill-gotten money.”
The other side’s attorney, Mukul Rohatgi, objected to the clubbed hearing, claiming that it would ‘jumble up’ the case.
What specific allegations are made in the PIL against the shell companies?
A portion of the petition was reproduced in the June 3 High Court order by a bench consisting of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad.
According to the petition, illegally obtained funds were invested in (shell) companies, and the incumbent Chief Minister of Jharkhand has certain people working for him as investment agents in industries such as mining, liquor, and real estate.
According to court documents, the money trail is “quite clear” and the “modus operandi is quite simple because Hemant Soren and Basant Soren are receiving a large share of profit from these firms and have amassed hundreds of crores as a result.”
What observations did the Supreme Court make when it declared the two pleas maintainable?
The court stated in its order that it was shocked to learn that the ED had arrested a senior IAS officer and that large sums of money had been recovered from her residence.
Despite the fact that IAS Pooja Singal was imprisoned, the court stated that the district police had not implicated her in the criminal case filed for alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds while serving as District Programme Coordinator of MGNREGA-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Khunti.