What Is The ED Case Against Former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren? All You Need To Know

What Is The ED Case Against Former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren? All You Need To Know

On June 24, the Jharkhand High Court granted bail to Hemant Soren, the former chief minister of Jharkhand. He was taken into custody in January 2024 on suspicion of money laundering in relation to a land scam.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Friday, June 28, 2024, 03:38 PM IST
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Hemant Soren, the former chief minister of Jharkhand. | DD

Ranchi: Former Chief Minister Hemant Soren has been granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court in a money laundering case related to a land scam. His lawyer, Arunabh Chowdhury, stated that the court acquitted him of the charges. The high court had reserved its decision on Soren's bail plea for June 13.

What Was The Case Against Hemant Soren?

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Ranchi has filed a Prosecution Complaint against former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren and four others in a case related to a land scam being investigated under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002. The case involves the acquisition, possession, and concealment of the proceeds of crime in the form of an 8.8-acre property in Bariyatu, Ranchi. The four other accused individuals are Bhanu Pratap Prasad, Binod Singh, Hilarious Kachhap, and Raj Kumar Pahan, who have been implicated for aiding and abetting Hemant Soren in the unlawful acquisition and possession of the property. The Honorable PMLA Court in Ranchi has taken cognizance of the prosecution complaint.

The case involving Hemant Soren highlights the complex intersection of legal, political, and regulatory challenges in India's governance. As investigations continue, the outcomes will likely have an impact on public trust in political leaders and the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies in addressing allegations of corruption and misconduct.

Allegations and Investigation

Hemant Soren, a leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), faced legal action related to alleged money laundering and illegal land acquisition. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Ranchi filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against Soren and others. They were accused of acquiring an 8.8-acre property in Bariyatu, Ranchi, through unlawful means, including falsified documents and proxy transactions.

Initial Allegations and Political Response

The controversy initially emerged in March 2021, when accusations surfaced regarding Soren's involvement in irregular land acquisitions in Nagri, near Ranchi. These allegations implicated Soren and his family members in acquiring land designated for a government institution using questionable methods, including proxy buyers. In response to mounting pressure, Soren ordered a judicial inquiry headed by retired Justice Amitava Roy in April 2021 to investigate the matter transparently.

Judicial Probe and Findings

The judicial inquiry investigated the legality of the land transactions and potential misuse of authority by Soren and his family. The findings of the inquiry, submitted in January 2022, reportedly cleared Soren of substantial wrongdoing, providing relief to him and his supporters. However, opposition parties, particularly the BJP, continued to criticize Soren, alleging political bias in the investigation.

ED's Money Laundering Investigation

Concurrently, the ED investigated multiple cases involving fraudulent land deals in Jharkhand. They alleged that Soren and his associates illegally acquired properties through manipulation of official records. The investigation highlighted the role of Bhanu Pratap Prasad, a former revenue sub-inspector, who was arrested for his involvement in acquiring properties illegally, including those linked to Soren.

Legal Proceedings and Allegations

The ED's prosecution complaint accused Soren of conspiring with individuals like Bhanu Pratap Prasad to acquire properties illegally. It claimed to have evidence linking Soren to the ownership of disputed properties, though Soren denied these allegations. He argued that the land in question was categorized as 'Bhuinhari' land under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, which cannot be transferred according to law.

Political Fallout and Response

The allegations and subsequent investigations stirred significant political controversy in Jharkhand, influencing public opinion and political discourse. Soren and his legal team vehemently denied any wrongdoing, portraying the case as politically motivated. The findings of the judicial inquiry and ongoing legal proceedings continued to shape the state's political landscape, with repercussions for Soren's government and opposition parties alike.

Timeline Of The Case

April 2023: The FBI raided 22 locations related to organized crime, government officials, and a bureaucrat who seized land from vulnerable, deceased, and impoverished individuals.

May 2023: Chhavi Ranjan, an IAS officer from the 2011 Jharkhand cadre batch, was arrested in May for a land scam involving at least 35 properties allegedly owned by Soren, leading to a point of contention between the Narendra Modi government and Soren, according to top ED sources.

August 8, 2023: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a summons to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren for questioning in a land scam case on Tuesday.

August 14, 2023: Hemant Soren responded to the ED summons by asking for its withdrawal. He stated that he had already provided all necessary documents and information. Soren also mentioned providing details of his assets to the CBI and suggested that the ED obtain the details from them. If the summons is not withdrawn, he threatens to take legal action.

December 11, 2023: The Enforcement Directorate issued fresh summons to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam on December 12.

January 16: Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren will record his statement in a money laundering case at his secretariat on January 20 after receiving the eighth summons from the Enforcement Directorate.

January 23: The Enforcement Directorate summoned Soren for questioning in the money laundering case between January 27 and 31, two days after recording his statement for the first time on January 20.

January 26: Soren responded to the summons issued by the probe agency and stated that he has received the summons and will respond in due course.

January 29: ED officials visited Soren's Delhi residence as part of a money laundering investigation linked to his deposition in an alleged land fraud case. He was questioned at his official residence in Ranchi on January 20.

January 30: Soren was reported to be evading questioning by the ED and was described as "untraceable" during the commotion caused by the ED's visits to his premises. However, he held a meeting of MLAs at his official residence in Ranchi.

January 31: Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren has resigned, and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLAs have chosen Champai Soren, the current Transport Minister, as the new chief minister.

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