For CBI/ED probe, SC directs HC to decide maintainability of pleas

Ranchi/ New Delhi/(IANS): The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Jharkhand High Court to decide on the maintainability of PILs seeking CBI/ED probe against Chief Minister Hemant Soren in connection with the grant of mining lease and transfer of funds into shell companies.

A vacation bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Bela M. Trivedi said: “We direct that the issue as to maintainability should be dealt with by the high court on the next date of listing.” The bench added that based on the outcome of the objections to the maintainability of the proceedings, the high court may thereafter proceed in accordance with the law.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Enforcement Directorate (ED), submitted that material recovered from IAS officer Pooja Singhal shows direct linkage with political higher-ups. Mehta emphasized that it is a very serious matter and a money trail was found and added that he apprehends the evidence is being destroyed.

Singhal was the Secretary of the Department of Mines and Geology and the Managing Director of Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation Limited (JSMDC).

On May 11, the ED arrested her and she was suspended by the Jharkhand government on May 12. The top court was informed that there were PILs before the high court, where one of the PILs sought direction from the ED to investigate the FIR pertaining to alleged offenses arising out of the disbursement of MGNREGA funds. The other sought a probe into the alleged transfer of money by the Soren family into certain companies.

The third PIL sought sanctioning prosecution of the Chief Minister, for obtaining mining leases under his own name, therefore he is allegedly liable to be charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Jharkhand High Court has tagged these three PILs together. The Jharkhand government has sought the dismissal of the PILs on the ground of maintainability. The state government challenged the decision of the Jharkhand High Court to accept the documents produced by the ED in sealed cover overruling the state government’s objections.

During the hearing, the top court noted that on May 13, the high court decided to hear the preliminary objections to the maintainability of the petitions, and clarified that it has gone into the merits of the allegations. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Jharkhand government, submitted that the PIL petitioner had suppressed that he had filed similar cases before and added that the petitioner is politically motivated.

The Jharkhand government moved the top court challenging a division bench order of the high court, where it declined to entertain the state’s objection to the acceptance of the documents in a sealed cover.

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