SC to hear Soren’s plea challenging arrest in PMLA case on Wednesday

New Delhi, May 21 (UNI) The Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned a hearing on former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s plea challenging his arrest in a money laundering case to Wednesday.

A Vacation Bench comprising Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma asked Soren whether a plea challenging his arrest in the money laundering case would be maintainable since a trial court and high court have already rejected his bail application in the matter.

The Bench said that since there were two orders passed by the high court rejecting the bail and had held that there is a prima facie case made out against Soren, the question now would be whether the apex court can examine the legality of the arrest.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Soren responded that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief was challenging the arrest itself as illegal and was not seeking bail or quashing of the case.

Sibal said that according to the prosecution the offence of money laundering has been committed under PMLA in which twin conditions apply. “When I say release me on bail. I am not asking for bail or quashing. I am not saying cognisance is bad. I am saying the arrest was itself wrong since all material in possession does not make out a case for an arrest,” Sibal said.

Sibal also contended that no scheduled offence was made out even if the allegations of Enforcement Directorate are accepted.

“Illegal possession of property is not a scheduled offence. That is the law. Let me accept the forcible possession argument though no evidence.. But even then no scheduled offence. Forgery which is a predicate offence has no involvement of mine,” Sibal argued on behalf of Soren.

The Court also noted that the writ petition filed by Soren challenging his arrest was still pending before the High Court.

The bench also noted that Soren’s Writ petition challenging his arrest was dismissed by the High Court on May 3. Whereas a separate bail plea filed by Soren was dismissed by the High Court on April 15.

The Court asked Sibal whether that was permissible. The bench further asked, “Did you file any formal leave of the High Court that since you (High Court) are not delivering judgment (in the petition challenging arrest), we are moving for bail,” the apex court asked.

“Certainly no,” Sibal replied.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju appearing on behalf of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said, “Riding two horses at the same time, which is deprecated by the court on several occasions.”

The ED case against Soren pertains to the illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia in Jharkhand.

The ED filed a complaint on June 23, 2016, in connection with the case under Section 45 of PMLA against Soren, 10 others and three companies.

He was later arrested and stepped down as Chief Minister of Jharkhand on January 31 in the wake of his arrest.

Soren challenged his arrest by ED.

More than a dozen people have been arrested in the case so far, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan, who served as Director of the State’s Social Welfare Department and Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi.

The agency recorded Soren’s statement under the PMLA on January 20 this year. He has, however, denied the allegations of money laundering.

The court finally posted the matter to be heard tomorrow May 22

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