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Jharkhand Ex-CM Hemant Soren Released on Bail

Jharkhand Ex-CM Hemant Soren Released on Bail

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 28: The former Jharkhand chief minister and leader of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Hemant Soren walked out of the jail on Friday on regular bail Granted by the Jharkhand High Court after spending about five months in the prison being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in an alleged money laundering case linked to a land scam.

The ED had arrested Mr Soren on January 31 this year after questioning him for over seven hours. Before he was formally placed under arrest, Mr Soren went to Raj Bhavan and resigned from the State’s top post. Following his resignation Champai Soren was elected as the leader of JMM legislative party and on February 5, the new Champai Soren government won the trust with 47 MLAs voting in favour of the motion.

His arrest was related to forging land documents of 8.86 acres in Badgai area of Ranchi. On Friday, the single judge bench of Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay granted Mr Soren the regular bail on Rs 50,000 bail bond and two sureties of the same amount. The court had reserved its order after completing hearing of both Mr Soren’s advocate and additional solicitor general SV Raju, who appeared for the ED, on June 13.

Soon after the bail, formalities were completed by the lawyer of Mr Soren and at around 4 p.m., he came out of the Birsa Munda Central Jail. Accompanied by his wife Kalpana Murmu Soren, he directly went to the residence of his father Shibu Soren to take his blessing. Many of his supporters had reached there, carrying his photo and shouted slogans in his support — “Jail Ka Tala Tut Gaya, Hemant Soren Chut Gaya” (The Jail lock is broken and Hemant Soren is released).

“I am out of jail after five months. The five months’ time for the people of Jharkhand and tribals must be worrying. The entire nation knows for what reason I was sent to jail. However, finally the court has pronounced the judgement. I respect the court, but sometimes it troubles me the way the attempts are being made to suppress the voices of politicians, writers, journalists, social workers in a systematic way,” Mr Soren said while speaking to the media in Ranchi outside the residence of his father.

Mr Soren asserted that he was put behind jail in false and concocted stories. “Many people like me are in jail. Even the Delhi CM is in jail and to get justice, it takes a long time. People who are working in their field with honesty are being troubled. I will keep fighting for the cause of the people and the tribals. My release is the message not only for the State but for the country that a conspiracy was hatched against me,” Mr Soren said.

Earlier, during the hearing of the bail plea, Mr Soren’s lawyer Kapil Sibal had said in his argument that the case was civil. The land was described as Bhuinhari (non-saleable under Chota NagpurTenancy Act (CNT Act) and cannot be transferred so there was no money laundering in the case. ED in its argument had said Mr Soren had taken the help of the officials to take possession of the land.

Mr Soren’s counsel said the court held the ex-chief minister prima facie was not guilty of the offence. “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,” senior counsel Arunabh Chowdhury said.

The court in its order said, “The overall conspectus of the case based on the broad probabilities does not specifically or indirectly assign the petitioner to be involved in the acquisition and possession as well as concealment of 8.86 acre of land connected to the “proceeds of crime.” None of the register/revenue records bare imprint of the direct involvement of the petitioner in the acquisition and possession of the said land.”

The court order further says, “The consequences of the findings recorded by this Court satisfies the condition as at Section 45 PMLA, 2002 to the effect that there is “reason to believe that petitioner is not guilty of the offence as alleged.”

During the hearing Mr Raju on behalf of the ED had objected to the bail plea stating that Soren was an influential person and had earlier tried to protect himself by using the state missionary. “If granted bail, he may try to obstruct the investigation by misusing the state machinery.”

Raju submitted that Soren had a plan to build a banquet hall on the land located at Bargain in Jharkhand and his architect friend Vinod Singh sent its map to him through mobile. He also submitted that during the survey, Singh identified the land at Bargain and admitted in his statement that he provided the details of the land on instructions from the chief minister’s office.

Senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal and Meenakshi Arora, who also represented Soren, said there was no case of money laundering, but one of ‘political vendetta’. “This is a malicious prosecution by the central government by misusing the ED.”

The timing of Mr Soren’s release is also crucial as the State will witness an Assembly election later this year in November. Recently, his wife Kalpana Murmu Soren won the by-poll on Gandey Assembly seat.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed happiness about Hemant Soren’s bail and hoped he would soon begin public activities. “Hemant Soren, an important tribal leader, and Chief Minister of Jharkhand, had to resign because of a case, but today he has received bail from the Hon’ble High Court! I am very happy with the great development and am sure that he will start his public activities immediately. Welcome back, Hemant, amidst us!” the TMC supremo wrote in an X post.

The executive president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the 48-year-old Hemant Soren had been lodged in Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi since his arrest.



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