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Hemant Soren’s Plea for Interim Bail and Challenge to ED Arrest Rejected by Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court refused to entertain former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s petition challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case and seeking interim bail to campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The court criticized Soren for not disclosing critical facts and engaging in questionable conduct.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma reproached Soren for failing to reveal in his petitions that a Jharkhand trial court had already acknowledged the money laundering charges against him on April 4. The bench was further displeased that Soren was simultaneously seeking bail from the trial court while also requesting interim bail from the Supreme Court.

“We expected some candor from your client. We should have been informed that your bail was already pending when you approached this court. You were pursuing parallel remedies. You had applied for bail before the trial court and also came to the Supreme Court seeking interim bail. We doubt your client was acting in good faith,” the bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader.

Sibal defended Soren, arguing that any lapse was the fault of his lawyers and should not affect the JMM. However, the bench highlighted that crucial details about the cognizance order and the bail plea before the Jharkhand trial court were missing from both the current and previous petitions. The earlier petition, which criticized the Jharkhand High Court’s delay in addressing Soren’s challenge to the ED arrest, was withdrawn on May 10 after the High Court delivered its ruling rejecting Soren’s plea.

“When you sought to withdraw the petition on May 10, it was not brought to our notice that cognizance had already been taken. Your conduct leaves much to be desired. You have approached this court under writ jurisdiction without disclosing the true facts. Even in your current petition, there is no mention of the cognizance order,” the court said.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju pointed out that Soren’s current petition also omitted the events of the cognizance order and the rejection of bail in the list of dates, despite being filed after these developments.

Sibal contended that the April 4 cognizance order and the May 13 bail dismissal should not obstruct his challenge to the arrest’s validity, which was based on legal and constitutional grounds. However, the bench emphasized the necessity of full transparency and adherence to judicial procedures.

“Your detention was pursuant to an executive act, but once a court has taken cognizance, it becomes a judicial act. Why did none of your petitions disclose that cognizance had been taken? It entered the judicial arena once cognizance was taken,” said the bench, adding that the Supreme Court could have considered Soren’s arguments if he had approached the court with clean hands.

“Your conduct is not free of blemish. You are coming to this court with blameworthy conduct,” the bench concluded, dismissing Soren’s plea and noting that he did not approach the top court honestly.

At this juncture, Sibal requested to withdraw the plea without any adverse remarks against his client, which the court allowed. The Supreme Court’s decision means Soren will now have to challenge the trial court’s rejection of his bail on May 13 before the state high court.

The bench’s ruling underscores the apex court’s commitment to judicial propriety and discourages the practice of seeking similar remedies from multiple courts without full disclosure.

The ED has accused Soren of orchestrating a complex scheme to illegally acquire and possess land in Jharkhand. According to the ED charge sheet, the case involves the fraudulent acquisition of prime land parcels in Ranchi through fake deeds and falsified land records.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the court questioned how Soren could contest the validity of his ED arrest after the trial court had acknowledged prima facie evidence of money laundering against him. The bench highlighted distinctions between Soren’s case and that of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was granted interim bail in a money laundering case to campaign in the ongoing elections. Unlike Kejriwal, Soren had already sought regular bail from a trial court, which had taken cognizance of the offenses under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED’s affidavit accused Soren of attempting to thwart the money laundering investigation by misusing state machinery and through his associates. The agency argued that Soren’s actions disqualified him from receiving any relief and contended that granting bail would set a precedent for other politicians to claim similar privileges, especially during election periods.

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