Supreme Court Dismisses Hemant Soren’s Petition Challenging Arrest

Ranchi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s petition challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to an alleged land scam in Jharkhand.

According to the reports, a vacation bench comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma chose not to entertain the matter, leading the petitioner to withdraw the petition. The bench noted that the petitioner had failed to disclose details about the Special Court taking cognizance of the ED’s complaint.

During the previous day’s hearing, the bench had asked Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Soren, to justify the court’s authority to examine the validity of Soren’s arrest despite the Trial Court’s cognizance of the ED complaint and the rejection of a regular bail application.

Justice Datta questioned when Soren became aware of the Special Court’s cognizance, to which Sibal responded that the order was passed on April 4, 2024, while Soren was in custody. The bench observed that Soren had filed a bail application on April 15, indicating parallel proceedings, and criticized the lack of candor in disclosing the bail rejection and cognizance details.

Sibal admitted fault, clarifying that the petition was about the validity of the arrest, not a bail application, and argued both remedies were distinct. Justice Datta cautioned that they could dismiss the petition without addressing legal arguments but acknowledged that judicial custody necessitates careful consideration before release.

The bench noted that once cognizance is taken, detention transitions from an executive to a judicial act. The lack of mention of the cognizance in Soren’s petitions was highlighted. Sibal contended that an invalid arrest should not prevent release, despite judicial custody, and criticized the High Court for delaying its judgment, prejudicing Soren’s fundamental rights.

Despite Sibal’s efforts to persuade the bench, citing relevant judgments, the bench proceeded to dismiss the petition. Sibal requested permission to withdraw the petition, which the court allowed. He also sought a directive for the High Court to expedite Soren’s bail application within a month, but the bench declined to interfere with High Court proceedings.

Soren’s petition challenged the Jharkhand High Court’s dismissal of his challenge to the ED arrest. Soren, arrested on January 31 in connection with the alleged land scam, has been in custody since. Previously, on May 17, a Supreme Court bench had refused to pass an order on Soren’s interim bail plea without hearing the ED’s response, noting Soren’s regular bail applications had been rejected.

Soren argued that the alleged illegal land possession is not a scheduled offense under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), questioning the ED’s authority to arrest under Section 19 of the PMLA.

The ED countered that Soren was arrested before election declarations, the Special Court had taken cognizance and issued process, and his regular bail under Section 45 PMLA had been rejected without challenge.

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