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ED opposes Hemant Soren's bail in SC over "misusing state machinery"

Hemant soren

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday argued against granting interim bail to former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, alleging that he is actively subverting the investigation into the money laundering case against him by "misusing state machinery."

The ED opposed Soren's "special prayer" for interim bail to campaign in the Lok Sabha elections, asserting that no politician should claim a special status higher than that of an ordinary citizen.

The ED told the Supreme Court that if Soren were granted interim bail for election campaigning, it would set a precedent for all incarcerated politicians to seek similar treatment, claiming they belong to a "class of their own."

A vacation bench headed by Justice Dipankar Datta is scheduled to hear Soren's plea against his arrest and for interim bail on Tuesday.

Highlighting that elections occur year-round in the country, the ED argued that no politician should be exempt from arrest and judicial custody based on their need to campaign. In a counter-affidavit filed in response to Soren's plea, the ED stated, "Therefore, there is an active attempt on the part of the petitioner (Soren) to subvert the investigation by misusing state machinery and to project the proceeds of crime as untainted through his stooges."

The affidavit added that the evidence shows Soren's involvement in the acquisition and possession of properties derived from illegal activities.

"Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) alone, presently, there are many politicians who are in judicial custody and their cases are examined by competent courts upholding their custody. There must be several political leaders in judicial custody throughout the country in non-PMLA offences. There is no reason why a special prayer for a special treatment by the petitioner be acceded to," the ED stated in its 285-page affidavit.

The ED asserted that Soren committed the offence of money laundering and was involved in criminal activities related to the proceeds of crime, arguing that no case for interim bail is justified. The agency pointed out that "various statements recorded under section 50 of PMLA, 2002, which establish that property admeasuring 8.86 acres, situated at Shanti Nagar, Near Lalu Khatal, Bariyatu (in Ranchi) is under illegal acquisition, possession and use of Hemant Soren and the same has been done in a camouflaged and concealed manner."

The ED emphasized that the right to campaign for an election is neither a fundamental, constitutional, nor legal right.

It stressed that there is no principle justifying differential treatment for a politician over others pursuing their vocations. "If the petitioner is extended any interim relief on account of him being a politician for the purposes of campaigning in general elections for his party there is no gain saying that all politicians incarcerated in some case or the other would seek a similar treatment claiming that politicians are a class of their own," it argued.

The agency noted that Soren's arrest on January 31 has been upheld by the Jharkhand High Court, and his regular bail application was dismissed by the trial court on May 13. It argued that Soren's only legal recourse was to challenge the order rejecting his bail application before the high court. As long as the order rejecting bail remains unchallenged, Soren is dis-entitled to seek his release.

Seeking the dismissal of Soren's plea for interim bail and his appeal against the dismissal of his petition challenging his arrest, the ED argued, "He has misused the state machinery and have put them to wrong use to create parallel false evidence in this case and as such, any relief granted to him shall result in influencing witnesses and frustrating the evidence against him."

The ED described Soren as a "highly influential person" who has even resorted to filing false cases against officials under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to thwart the investigation. "The petitioner will tamper with the witnesses who have come forward and there is a grave likelihood that he will overawe the witnesses in this case. Hence, the prayer of interim relief is vehemently opposed and may be denied in the interest of investigation," the agency submitted.

On May 13, referring to the Supreme Court's order in a money-laundering case involving Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Soren sought interim bail for campaigning in the Lok Sabha election. In his appeal filed through advocate Praghya Baghel, the JMM leader argued that the high court had erred in dismissing his plea.

Soren is currently in judicial custody and is lodged in Ranchi's Birsa Munda Central Jail.

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TAGS:Hemant SorenLok Sabha Elections 2024
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