SC denies Soren’s plea for interim bail, but agrees to hear his challenge to arrest by the ED on May 17

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal for the former Jharkhand CM said, ‘I (Soren) know I am going to be out... But that is not the point... Why should I be prejudiced?’

Updated - May 13, 2024 05:45 pm IST

Published - May 13, 2024 12:58 pm IST

Jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. File photo

Jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. File photo | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court refused interim bail on May 13 for former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren to campaign for the Lok Sabha election, but agreed to list his plea to quash his arrest by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in connection with a money laundering investigation linked to a land scam.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, the same two-judge combination that had granted interim bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on May 10, refused point blank Mr. Soren’s lawyer, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, when he asked for liberty to come out and canvas for votes in the ongoing general election.

Hemant Soren arrested by ED | All you need to know

Mr. Sibal requested interim bail when the Bench issued notice to the ED and listed the case on May 20, during the court’s summer vacation.

The senior lawyer fervently urged the court to list the case on May 17, the last working day before the nearly two-month long holidays. Justice Khanna said his court was swamped with work and May 20 was the shortest date available.

“It is just seven days. Besides, they (the ED) need time to prepare a response,” Justice Khanna explained.

But Mr. Sibal said the elections would be over by May 20. “I would never make a submission (for an earlier date) like this, but great injustice has been done to us,” he submitted.

Also Read: ED arrests three more in land scam case linked to Hemant Soren

Jharkhand will be voting in the fourth phase of the elections on May 20. Justice Khanna pointed out that campaigning would close 48 hours before voting day. The judge asked Mr. Sibal how a hearing on March 17 would help his client.

“Giving them seven days would help. If you succeed, you will be out,” Justice Khanna told Mr. Sibal.

“I know I am going to be out… But that is not the point… Why should I be prejudiced? The Supreme Court told me to go back to the High Court. The High Court reserved the order in my case against my arrest in February. No order was passed by the High Court in March and April. My petition was finally dismissed on May 3. On May 6, I made an urgent mentioning in the Supreme Court and served my appeal to the ED… Consider this list of dates,” Mr. Sibal argued.

The Bench ventured to say that the ED may seek more time to compile records if the case was posted on May 17. Justice Khanna wondered if the case would even reach for hearing on the last working day of the court.

“Elections would be over by then (May 20)... We wanted to participate in the elections. Dismiss my case then,” Mr. Sibal conveyed his disappointment to the court.

The court finally agreed to May 17, but asked Mr. Sibal to keep his fingers crossed. Mr. Sibal said he would take his chances on May 17 and “if Your Lordships put your minds to it, it will be done”.

At one point, Justice Khanna questioned Mr. Sibal if his client was ever in actual possession of 8.8 acres at Bariatu in Ranchi, alleged by the ED to be the proceeds of crime.

Mr. Sibal said Mr. Soren was never in possession of the land. “They (the ED) have no evidence or material. All they have is a person who says it is mantri-ji’s (Minister’s) land. I have nothing to do with the land,” the lawyer noted.

He said even the “forcible possession” alleged against him was not a scheduled offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED had arrested Mr. Soren under the PMLA on January 31 after he submitted his resignation as Chief Minister. The Central agency had questioned him for several hours at his official residence in Ranchi in connection with the land scam case.

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