Jharkhand HC grants bail to ex-CM Hemant Soren in money laundering case

The Jharkhand High Court on Friday granted bail to former Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a money laundering case linked to a land scam. The high court had on June 13 reserved its order on Soren's bail plea.
Former  Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren
Former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren

Ranchi | The Jharkhand High Court on Friday granted bail to former Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a money laundering case linked to a land scam.

The high court had on June 13 reserved its order on Soren's bail plea.

"Bail has been granted to Soren. The court has held that prima facie he is not guilty of the offence and there is no likelihood of the petitioner committing an offence when on bail," Soren's senior counsel Arunabh Chowdhury told PTI.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the court's order granting bail to Soren.

Soren, the executive president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on January 31 in connection with its investigation into the money laundering case.

The 48-year-old politician has been lodged in Birsa Munda jail.

During the hearing, ED's counsel SV Raju argued that if Soren is released on bail, he may commit a similar offence, referring to cases against ED officers in the SC/ST police station.

The order was passed by the single bench of Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay.

Arguments from both Soren's defence team and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had concluded, following which the court had reserved its order.

Soren had sought an expedited hearing from the high court.

His legal representative senior advocate Meenakshi Arora had earlier argued that Soren had been unfairly targeted in what she described as a politically motivated and fabricated case.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also representing Soren, had argued strongly for the former chief minister's bail, contending that he was falsely implicated in a criminal case by the ED.

The ED, opposing Soren's bail plea, alleged that he misused his position as the chief minister to unlawfully acquire 8.86 acres in Bargain anchal in the state capital.

The ED counsel, while opposing the bail application of Soren, had earlier said the witnesses, who were examined by the federal agency, had confirmed the ex-CM's involvement in the illegal land deal.

The agency had claimed that during the probe, Soren's media consultant Abhishek Prasad admitted that the former CM instructed him to manipulate official records to change the ownership details of the plot.

The ED also claimed that the original owner of the land, Raj Kumar Pahan, had tried to lodge a complaint when his land was being usurped, but it was never acted upon.

On the contrary, a boundary wall was constructed around the plot and a caretaker was appointed to stay on the land, the agency said.

The central agency said it conducted an independent survey of the land parcel and questioned caretaker Santosh Munda, who allegedly said that the plot belonged to Hemant Soren.

The ED also quizzed architect Vinod Kumar and claimed that the proposed plan for construction of a banquet hall was recovered from his mobile phone and the location and dimension of the land matched with the Bargain plot, Raju had said.

Soren had been summoned multiple times by the ED before being questioned at his residence and subsequently arrested on January 31

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