Ranchi: Tough days are ahead for Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren as he has to fight his life’s most difficult battle on the legal front.
From the courts to the Election Commission, he is busy consulting top lawyers and legal experts on how to deal with a plethora of issues.
Some people close to the Chief Minister are on the radar of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which has expanded its probe into several cases. The upcoming judgments on two PILs filed for a CBI probe into allegations of irregularities in allocation of mining leases and investments by the Chief Minister’s close friends in shell companies may also create fresh trouble for the beleaguered Chief Minister.
The ED on Friday raided the premises of fourteen businessmen including Pankaj Mishra, Soren’s representative in Barhait, his assembly constituency. Pankaj Mishra was not at his residence in Sahibganj at that time. He was trapped in Uttarakhand and questioned for about five hours. The ED carried out these raids in connection with a case related to a tender in Sahibganj and probe into large-scale money laundering in mining in the state. The ED deployed 116 of its officers in the raids.
During the raids, Rs 3 crore cash and several documents related to investment and mining have been seized from the premises of a stone trader Heera Bhagat, known to Pankaj Mishra, who is just a representative of Soren but considered very close to the CM.
Earlier in May-June, the ED had raided 20 locations of the Mining and Industries Secretary Pooja Singhal, an IAS officer, and her close associates. About Rs 19 crore in cash was recovered from the residence of her CA Suman Kumar Singh. Singhal was also arrested on money laundering charges. She is in jail.
In the same case, mining officials of several districts including Sahibganj, Dumka, Palamu, Chaibasa were also questioned by the ED.
Later, the ED raided the premises of Prem Prakash Nishith Kesari, a big wheel in the government and builder Vishal Chaudhary and seized several documents. Kesari is the brother-in-law of Rajiv Arun Ekka, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
Hemant Soren’s biggest problem are his legal issues. A person called Shivshankar Sharma has filed two PILs in the Jharkhand High Court, one of these is directly related to the Chief Minister. The PIL alleges that Hemant Soren, while being the Chief Minister and as Minister of Mines, got the lease of a stone mine in Angara, Ranchi allotted in his name.
Soren has been accused of holding an office of profit and the PIL demands his disqualification from the membership of the Assembly. The second PIL alleged illegal investment in shell companies by the close associates of Soren and his brother, Dumka MLA Basant Soren. The PIL seeks a CBI inquiry into the matter.
Describing the PILs as motivated by malicious intent, Hemant Soren had appealed to the Supreme Court to quash the hearing in the Jharkhand High Court. However, there was no relief from the Supreme Court and the High Court has been directed to continue the hearing.
Hemant Soren has hired senior advocate Kapil Sibal and others to present his case. The next hearing is slated to be held on July 29.
Meanwhile, Hemant Soren has counter filed a petition in the Jharkhand High Court against Shiv Shankar Sharma, who has filed the PILs, alleging that he had presented false evidence. Soren, in the petition, has said that an attempt has been made to malign his image through various PILs.
Soren has surrendered the lease of the stone mine in Angara, but the BJP has made it a big issue and has lodged a complaint with the Governor and the Election Commission which had issued a notice and sought Soren’s reply.
The hearing in the Election Commission is going on. The last one was held on June 28, in which the advocates on behalf of the BJP, while presenting the arguments, demanded Soren’s disqualification from the Assembly. The Commission has fixed the next hearing on July 14.
Whatever comes out of it, it will have a deep impact on Jharkhand’s future politics.