Jharkhand HC Grants Bail to Ex-CM Hemant Soren in Land Scam Case

Hemant Soren

The Jharkhand High Court granted bail to former Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Friday in a money laundering case linked to a land scam.
On June 13, the high court had reserved its decision on Soren’s bail plea.

“The petitioner is directed to be released on bail upon furnishing a bail bond of Rs 50,000 with two sureties of the same amount each,” stated the order passed by the single bench of Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay.

Hemant Soren, the executive president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on January 31 in connection with its investigation into the money laundering case. The 48-year-old politician was released from Birsa Munda Jail around 4 pm after completing the legal formalities, according to an official.

“The court has determined that prima facie he is not guilty of the offence and there is no likelihood of the petitioner committing an offence while on bail,” Soren’s senior counsel Arunabh Chowdhury stated.

The JMM Chief Supporters

As Soren emerged from jail, a large number of JMM supporters cheered and chanted slogans in his favor. Soren’s wife, Kalpana Soren, a JMM legislator, expressed gratitude to the judiciary and the public for their support. Upon his release, Soren was seen waving to the crowd and seeking blessings from his father and JMM supremo Shibu Soren. JMM and Congress workers in the state celebrated by distributing sweets.

During the hearing, ED’s counsel SV Raju argued that Soren might commit a similar offence if released on bail, referencing cases against ED officers in the SC/ST police station. The court responded, stating that despite the ED’s concerns, there was no likelihood of Soren committing a similar offence. The court’s order also indicated that the findings met the conditions of Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, and found no specific involvement of Soren in the acquisition, possession, or concealment of 8.86 acres of land at Shantinagar, Bargain, Ranchi, related to the “proceeds of crime.”

Arguments from both Soren’s defense team and the Enforcement Directorate(ED)had concluded, leading to the court reserving its order. ED counsel Zoheb Hossain requested a 48-hour stay on the implementation of the order to allow for a move to the Supreme Court, which the high court denied.

Soren had sought an expedited hearing from the high court. JMM minister and Soren’s younger brother Basant Soren, along with the party’s central general secretary Binod Pandey, went to the Civil Court to complete the formalities of furnishing bail bonds. These bonds were presented in the court of special PMLA judge Rajiv Ranjan.

Soren’s legal representative, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, argued that the JMM leader had been unfairly targeted in what she described as a “politically motivated” and “fabricated” case. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also representing Soren, contended strongly that the former chief minister was falsely implicated by the central agency.

ED Objections

The ED opposed Soren’s bail plea, alleging that he misused his position as chief minister to unlawfully acquire 8.86 acres in Bargain anchal in the state capital. The ED argued that witnesses examined by the federal agency implicated Soren in the illegal land deal. The agency claimed that during the investigation, Soren’s media consultant Abhishek Prasad admitted to manipulating official records under Soren’s instruction. The ED also alleged that the original land owner, Raj Kumar Pahan, had attempted to lodge a complaint about his land being usurped, but no action was taken. A boundary wall was constructed around the plot, and a caretaker was appointed.

Survey and Investigation Details

The agency conducted an independent survey of the land and questioned caretaker Santosh Munda, who allegedly confirmed the plot belonged to Hemant Soren. Additionally, the ED quizzed architect Vinod Kumar and found a proposed construction plan for a banquet hall on his mobile phone, which matched the dimensions and location of the Bargain plot.

Soren had been summoned multiple times by the ED before being questioned at his residence and subsequently arrested on January 31.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte