Delhi HC Restrains Lokpal from Taking Action on CBI Report against Shibu Soren till May 10

Shibu Soren

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday restrained the Lokpal of India from taking any further steps until May 10, subsequent to the submission of a CBI report regarding its investigation into two properties allegedly linked to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) president Shibu Soren.

The Judge

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued a notice to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, the complainant before the Lokpal, in response to JMM’s petition challenging the ombudsman’s March 4 directive instructing the CBI to investigate the two properties owned by Jharkhand’s ruling party. The high court scheduled the next hearing for May 10.

“Notice is to be issued. The CBI is allowed to submit its report in a sealed cover to the Lokpal. However, the Lokpal is instructed to refrain from taking further action until the next hearing,” stated the court.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arunabh Chowdhury, representing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), argued that the two properties belonged to the political party and not to Soren personally. They contended that the Lokpal’s March 4 directive exceeded its jurisdiction under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

They emphasized that an inquiry under the statute could only be initiated against an individual, not a political party. Furthermore, since the CBI had already concluded in its earlier report that the properties belonged to the JMM, the Lokpal’s directive exceeded the Act’s scope.

The anti-corruption ombudsman, based on Dubey’s complaint, directed the CBI to investigate alleged benami properties linked to JMM chief Shibu Soren within six months.

The Lokpal, also directing the CBI to probe the two properties belonging to the JMM, issued the directive while disposing of Dubey’s complaint filed on August 5, 2020.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha

The JMM, through advocate Abhishek Roy, filed a petition in the high court, contending that the Lokpal’s directive was legally flawed and lacked jurisdiction. The petition asserted that the order was passed without notice to the JMM and without affording it an opportunity to present its case.

Dubey’s complaint to the Lokpal alleged that Soren and his family members engaged in widespread corruption, accumulating significant wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income through unethical means.

The Lokpal also instructed the CBI to provide monthly progress reports on its investigation. It stated that the two properties in question were registered under the JMM, a party founded by Soren, a Rajya Sabha MP, and were purchased through him in 2014.

The Lokpal noted that Soren played a central role in the matters under consideration, and considering the gravity of the allegations and the number of properties identified in the preliminary inquiry report, thorough investigation into the funding sources used for these acquisitions was necessary to fulfill its statutory obligations.

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