New Delhi | JMM leader Hemant Soren, who had to step down as Jharkhand chief minister in the face of his imminent arrest, on Thursday accused the Enforcement Directorate of arresting him as part of a "well-orchestrated conspiracy" by the Centre ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due months from now.
In his plea before the apex court, Soren has urged it to declare his arrest as unwarranted, arbitrary, and in violation of his fundamental rights. The petition, which will be heard on Friday, seeks his immediate release.
Soren was arrested on Wednesday in a money laundering case linked to "illegal" possession of huge parcels of land and alleged association with the "land mafia".
"Declare the arrest and consequent detention of the Petitioner as unwarranted, arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental right of the Petitioner guaranteed and protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and direct the Respondent to forthwith set the Petitioner free," the plea says.
Giving the sequence of his arrest, Soren, 48, said he had moved a plea before the top court on January 31 apprehending his arrest by the ED.
He said his lawyers mentioned his petition before the vacation deputy registrar for urgent listing and were told a prayer can be made before the court of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on Thursday at 10:30 am.
"The counsel for the Petitioner immediately informed the outcome of the urgent mentioning to the officer of the Respondent no.2 (Enforcement Directorate) through an e-mail dated January 31, 2024 sent at 9 pm. Even the petitioner himself intimated the same to officer of the respondent no.2. It was requested that Respondent No. 2 should await the outcome of the proceedings before the Supreme Court," the plea said.
It added that despite the intimation, the ED took him into "illegal custody with the deliberate intent to interfere with the present Writ Petition".
Soren said in the petition that he was arrested from the Raj Bhavan where he had gone to tender his resignation as the chief minister along with JMM MLAs and those of the allied parties who enjoy a clear majority in the state assembly.
"The arrest of the petitioner around 10.10 PM on January 31, 2024 is illegal and malafide and without jurisdiction," it claimed.
The plea said Soren's arrest has curtailed his liberty and "the officers of the Respondent No.2 have abused their powers for extraneous considerations under the dictates of the Central government as the Petitioner is the leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, a prominent opposition party and an active constituent of the INDIA alliance.
"The arrest is a part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy which has been given shape at the anvil of the general elections slated in a few months," it said.
Soren alleged the ED's action, initiated at the behest of the central government, was aimed at toppling his democratically elected government.
"The ruling alliance headed by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has the support of 47 MLAs out of total 81 MLAs of the Assembly and they have elected Champai Soren to be their leader and to take over as new Chief Minister of the state of Jharkhand pursuant to the resignation of the Petitioner," it said.
The former chief minister said a perusal of the grounds of arrest shows they are specious and cannot justify the ED's action.
It said the alleged recovery of Rs 36 lakh from his Delhi residence on January 29 cannot be a ground for his arrest.
"The said premises is a leasehold property of the state of Jharkhand and is used for residential and office purposes by the State. No notice of the search was given to the state of Jharkhand or the Petitioner. It does not appear from the grounds of arrest that videography was made of the search. There is no material alleged in the grounds of arrest to link the cash amounting to Rs. 36 lacs allegedly recovered from the said premises with the predicate (main or scheduled) offence," he said.
The petition said from the questions the ED posed to Soren on January 20, 2024, it appears that it is trying to make a "fishing and roving enquiry for the purpose of political gain at the dictates of Central government".
It accused the central agency of abusing its powers and claimed its actions are "vitiated by political considerations".
"The Respondent is acting contrary to the well settled principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution of India," it alleged.