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Hemant Soren Accused of Misusing State Machinery to Stall ED Probe, Denied Interim Bail by Supreme Court

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed the Supreme Court on Monday that the Jharkhand State police had filed fabricated cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against its officers at the direction of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. [Hemant Soren v. Directorate of Enforcement and Anr].

This action, according to the ED’s affidavit submitted to the apex court, was intended to obstruct the money laundering investigation against Soren. The misuse of state machinery by Soren disqualifies him from seeking interim bail, the ED argued.

“The petitioner is not entitled to seek interim bail as false cases under the SC/ST Act have been filed against the investigating officers of ED to impede and obstruct the authorities under the PMLA from carrying out their duties… Releasing the petitioner on interim bail would enable him to misuse state machinery to hinder further investigation in the case and influence witnesses and tamper with evidence,” the affidavit stated.

The ED also highlighted that despite sharing information with the Jharkhand government, no action was taken against the implicated officials in the money laundering case.

“There is evidence to suggest that the accused petitioner, who was the former CM of Jharkhand, continues to exert significant influence over the administration… The petitioner is involved in money laundering offenses and criminal activities related to proceeds of crime. There is no basis for interim bail, circumventing the requirements of Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA),” the ED argued.

Since Soren’s bail plea was rejected by a special court and has not been appealed, he cannot seek interim bail directly from the apex court, the ED further stated.

The case will be heard later today by a vacation bench comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma.

The ED has booked Soren in a case related to illegal land ownership changes by mafia groups in Jharkhand. A prosecution complaint was filed on June 23, 2016, under Section 45 of the PMLA against Soren, ten others, and three companies.

Several individuals, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan, have been arrested in connection with the case. Soren was arrested on January 31, following which he resigned as Chief Minister of Jharkhand. He denies the allegations of money laundering, claiming his arrest is based on fabricated documents as part of a conspiracy.

Soren’s challenge to his arrest was dismissed by the Jharkhand High Court on May 3, prompting him to approach the Supreme Court. On May 13, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the ED regarding Soren’s plea challenging the decision of the Jharkhand High Court. The court also asked the ED to submit a brief response to Soren’s request for interim bail.

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