SC adjourns hearing on plea of Jharkhand CM challenging ED summons

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned the hearing regarding Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s challenge against the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) summons in an alleged money-laundering case to 18 September. The Bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi rescheduled the proceedings upon being informed that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi would represent Soren. A junior counsel stated, “I request the matter be scheduled for a hearing on Monday. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi will lead our representation.” The Bench granted the request. CM Soren has petitioned the apex court to contest the summons he received to appear at the ED’s Ranchi office on 14 August and provide a statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Previously, he declined ED’s summons in connection with an alleged defence land scam case, citing prior commitments.
The 48-year-old leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was questioned by the ED for more than nine hours on November 17 of the previous year in relation to another money-laundering case linked to purported illegal mining in the state. The Central investigative agency is examining a series of land transactions, including one related to defence land, in which a group of individuals, including mafia members, intermediaries, and civil servants, purportedly collaborated to falsify deeds and documents dating back to as early as 1932. The ED has detained multiple individuals, including Soren’s political aide Pankaj Mishra. Initially, the CM was summoned by the ED on 3 November 2022, but he did not appear, citing official commitments. He had even challenged the Central investigative agency to arrest him and subsequently requested a three-week postponement of the summons.
Thirteen individuals have been apprehended in connection with the land scam, including Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Chhavi Ranjan and two businessmen, namely Amit Agrawal of Kolkata and Bishnu Agrawal, who owns shopping malls in Ranchi.
Bishnu Agrawal’s arrest was made based on the FIR filed with the Sadar police station regarding the fraudulent sale of a one-acre plot on the prestigious Cheshire Home Road in Ranchi. In addition to the Cheshire Home Road property and a 9.3-acre plot in Namkum, Agrawal, in collusion with DC Chhavi Ranjan and others, also acquired a 5.83-acre plot in Bariatu, Ranchi, which has been under the possession of the Indian Defence establishment since 1949.
Investigations have unveiled the operations of a land mafia network in Jharkhand, involved in forging legacy records in both Kolkata and Ranchi.

Two significant cases
The ED issued a summons to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in connection with an alleged land scam on 8 August.
Back in November, Soren underwent extensive questioning by the ED, lasting approximately 10 hours, related to his involvement in an illegal mining case. The federal agency has been investigating two significant cases of money laundering within the state. The first case pertains to illicit mining activities within the state, while the second involves alleged land scams in the state’s capital.
Previously, the ED conducted 41 searches and 5 surveys in connection with this case, resulting in the seizure of various incriminating pieces of evidence, including forged seals from the land revenue department, fraudulent land deeds, records indicating the distribution of proceeds of criminal activities, photographs depicting forgery, and evidence of bribes paid to government officials, among other items.

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