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SC refuses to entertain Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren's plea against ED summons

Apex Court directs the JMM leader to approach the Jharkhand High Court for relief in the matter. RANCHI: India's top court on Monday refused to entertain Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren's petition challenging the summons issued against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over money laundering allegations in a land scam case. 

Soren had approached the Supreme Court challenging the summons issued by ED and stated that it was wrong for the ED to summon him in the land scam. A bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi granted Soren the liberty to approach the Jharkhand High Court for relief in the matter.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi claimed in the court that this is a complete case of a witch-hunt, while Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the ED, submitted that the issue is covered by a large number of judgments. "Mr Rohatgi, why don't you go to the high court? No no, go to the high court. We will permit you to withdraw," the bench said. The matter was dismissed as withdrawn. In his petition, Soren stated that the summons was a "clear misuse" of Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act ((PMLA), 2002, which directly infringes upon his right to personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution.

Section 50 empowers the ED to summon an accused and record a statement that is admissible as evidence in court. Meanwhile, Soren has been summoned for a fourth time by the ED asking to appear before it's zonal office in Ranchi on September 23. Notably, Soren had filed a Writ Petition in the top court challenging the summons issued against him after it was issued for the second time on August 19, asking him to appear before the ED zonal office in Ranchi.

Later, after being summoned by ED for the third time on September 1, Soren wrote a letter to the central investigation agency informing them that his petition challenging the notice issued against him is pending in the Supreme Court, and hence, he should not be issued further summons. Soren skipped his third summons in a row on September 9 and instead attended the dinner hosted by Rashtrapati Bhavan for G20 Summit leaders in New Delhi. Two other summons were issued by the ED to him.

The Chief Minister skipped his first summons on August 14 and sent a letter to the ED asking it to withdraw the summons, adding that he would be forced to take legal action against the agency. However, the ED issued a summons against Soren for a second time asking him to appear before it on August 24. Soren skipped it again and sent a letter to the ED saying that despite filing a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the summons issued to him, he was being summoned again by the ED. Meanwhile, the ED has filed a Caveat in the Supreme Court which is yet to be heard.

A Caveat gives a person the right to be heard before any decision is made against him as no court can make a decision or issue an order against a person without hearing his or her side. According to ED sources, the Caveat was filed on August 25 as the central agency thought that Soren would get an order passed by the apex court without their side being heard. Upon finding that Soren was not showing urgency to get his petition heard by the apex court, the ED served a third summons to Soren. Notably, the ED is probing two major cases of alleged money laundering in Jharkhand.

The first case is related to illegal mining in Sahibganj in which the 48-year-old Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader was interrogated for over nine hours by the ED on November 17 last year. The second case is related to the alleged land scam in the state capital. 13 people, including IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan, and two businessmen, Amit Agarwal of Kolkata and Bishnu Agarwal who owns shopping malls in Ranchi, have already been arrested in connection with the alleged land scam. (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)