SC refused to hear former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s petition against his arrest by ED in a land fraud case, asks to move High Court

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Today (February 02, 2024), the Supreme Court (SC) of India refused to hear a writ petition filed by Hemant Soren, former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, challenging his arrest in a land fraud case by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The bench hearing the matter asked former Jharkhand CM Soren to approach the Jharkhand High Court. A special bench was constituted to hear the petition consisting of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice Bela M. Trivedi, and Justice M.M. Sundresh. On February 01, 2024 (yesterday), the matter was mentioned by Senior Advocate (SA) Kapil Sibal accompanied by SA Abhishek Manu Singhvi before the SC bench led by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud. The CJI agreed to hear the matter on an urgent basis today. 

During the proceedings, Justice Khanna asked SA Sibal, “Why should you not go to the High Court?”. To this, SA Sibal replied “We are dealing with a Chief Minister who has been arrested. See the evidence. This is not fair.” Further, Justice Khanna said, “Courts are open to everybody. High Courts are constitutional courts, If we permit one person, then we have to permit everyone.” After hearing the contentions, the bench declined Soren’s request for relief under Article 32 of the Constitution of India and said that he could pursue a legal remedy under Article 226 before the HC. It added, “We are informed that petitioner has already preferred a writ petition before the Jharkhand High Court, which is still pending…It will also be open to him to ask for expeditious listing and disposal of the case.” 

The writ petition mentioned before the bench alleged that “The arrest is arbitrary, illegal and the petitioner’s liberty has been curtailed illegally and the officers of the Enforcement Directorate have abused their powers for extraneous considerations under the dictates of the central government as the Petitioner, as the leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, is 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.” On the contrary, the ED contended that Hemant Soren had illegally acquired approximately 8.5 acres of property in Ranchi. 

On January 31, he was arrested by the central agency and was questioned at his residence for over 7 hours. The ED’s arrest was challenged by ex-CM Soren in the Jharkhand HC and the hearing was posted for February 01 whereas he simultaneously approached the SC challenging his arrest by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. After hearing the contentions today, the special bench refused to interfere with the ED’s arrest and asked him to move to the High Court.