Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Sunday moved the Supreme Court against the summons issued to him by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case related to an alleged mining scam in Jharkhand, reported Live Law.
The central agency has asked the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader to appear before it on September 23.
The fresh summons were issued after Soren had already moved the top court challenging previous summons sent to him to depose on August 24 at the central agency’s office in Ranchi and record his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Before this, the Enforcement Directorate had issued a similar summon on August 14.
Notably, Soren was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for nine hours in the case in November last year.
In his plea on Sunday, Soren contended that the repeated summons were politically motivated and were being sent to “browbeat, humiliate and intimidate” him, reported Live Law.
He alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre is using the Enforcement Directorate to target Opposition leaders who are not following the lines of the government.
“...This targeting has picked up the pace with the date of General Elections fast approaching and the formation of the Opposition alliance INDIA against the ruling NDA [National Democratic Alliance],” he said, according to NDTV.
Soren emphasised that the summons, aside from being “derogatory, unwarranted, and illegal,” also serve to undermine the office of a state’s chief minister. He alleged that the summons have been directed at him in his capacity as the Jharkhand chief minister, rather than in his individual capacity.
What is the land mining case?
The Enforcement Directorate is investigating more than a dozen land deals, including one related to defence land, where a group of mafia, middlemen and bureaucrats allegedly colluded to forge deeds and documents as long back as 1932, according to India Today.
The Enforcement Directorate in July last year had arrested Soren’s aide Pankaj Mishra, who was a central committee member of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
His arrest came after the Enforcement Directorate conducted searches at 19 locations, including his premises in Sahibganj and those linked to him in the state. After the raids, the authorities froze deposits of Rs 11.88 crore lying in 37 bank accounts belonging to Mishra and others.
The central agency said that it had recovered Rs 5.34 crore of unaccounted cash during the raids and claimed that the amounts were linked to illegal mining in the state.
In its chargesheet filed before a special court in Ranchi, the Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Mishra controls the illegal mining business in the chief minister’s Assembly constituency Barhait through his accomplices.
Besides Mishra, the Enforcement Directorate has also named his associates Bacchu Yadav and Prem Prakash as accused. The agency alleged they laundered the money gained through illegal mining. All of them are under judicial custody.
Last year, Soren had alleged that the investigation by the central agency was part of a larger conspiracy by the BJP-led Centre to destabilise his government in Jharkhand. He had also questioned the Enforcement Directorate’s claims that it had detected illegal mining of stones worth more than Rs 1,000 crore in the state’s Sahibganj district and its adjoining areas.