SC refuses to entertain Soren’s plea challenging his ED arrest

New Delhi (| The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a petition of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to an alleged land scam in Jharkhand. A Vacation Bench comprising Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma dismissed the petition as withdrawn. After the bench expressed its disinclination to entertain the matter, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing on behalf of Soren chose to withdraw the petition.

The bench orally observed that the petitioner had not disclosed facts relating to the Special Court taking cognizance of the complaint filed by the ED. The Bench was hearing Soren’s petition challenging the Jharkhand High Court’s judgement which dismissed his challenge to the ED arrest. Soren was arrested by ED in connection with the alleged land scam on January 31 and is accused of being the primary beneficiary of fraudulently acquired land.

Soon after the arrest, Soren resigned as chief minister and has been in custody since. The ED, on the other hand, raised preliminary objections to Soren’s pleas distinguishing his case from Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s.
The ED argued that Soren was arrested in January, way ahead of the declaration of elections.

The investigating agency said that In Soren’s case, the Special Court has taken cognizance of the complaint and issued process, which means that there is a judicial satisfaction regarding a prima facie case, and Soren’s regular bail application under Section 45 PMLA was rejected by the Special Court, which order was not challenged by him.

During Tuesday’s hearing the bench asked Sibal to explain, how it could examine the validity of Soren’s arrest despite the Trial Court taking cognizance of the ED complaint and rejecting a regular bail application filed on behalf of Soren.

On Wednesday, the bench asked Sibal when the petitioner came to know about the Special Court taking cognizance.
To this, Sibal replied that the cognizance order was passed on April 4, 2024, while Soren was in custody.The bench noted that Soren filed the bail application on April 15. Sibal clarified that the bail application was without prejudice to his contentions in the writ petition. Justice Datta told Sibal, “You were pursuing parallel proceedings.” And added that “more candour” was expected from you in disclosing the facts related to the rejection of bail and the taking of cognizance.”

“Your conduct leaves a lot to be desired,” Justice Datta told Sibal.Sibal confessed, “I take it as a fault of mine and not the client. The client is in jail. Our intention was never to mislead the court.” Justice Datta said when the cognizance was taken, the detention became a judicial act rather than an executive act. “It enters the judicial arena with cognizance taken, why this fact was not mentioned in any of the petitions?” the court asked Sibal.

Sibal tried to explain that the petition was challenging the validity of the arrest and was not a bail application and hence, both remedies are distinct. “That is my conception. It could be wrong,” he said.  Commenting on the conduct of Sibal for misleading the Court, the bench said, “You could have brought to the attention of the Court the facts relating to the rejection of bail and taking of cognizance,” Justice Datta said.The Court however on the request of Sibal allowed him to withdraw the petition and dismissed the case as withdrawn. (UNI)