The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hear on August 17 the separate pleas of the Jharkhand government and Chief Minister Hemant Soren against an order of the high court which accepted the maintainability of a PIL for a probe against the JMM leader who has been accused of granting himself a mining lease as the state’s mining minister. The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices U U Lalit and S R Bhat.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Jharkhand government, told the bench it is a “motivated” public interest litigation (PIL) which needs to be “thrown out”. The apex court said a copy of the petition along with annexures and the pleadings exchanged by the parties be placed on record.
BJP national vice president and former Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das had in February this year claimed Soren abused his position and granted himself the favour of a mining lease, an issue involving both the conflict of interest and corruption. He also alleged violations of provisions of the Representation of People Act. Taking cognisance of the controversy, the Election Commission of India (ECI) sent a notice to Soren in May seeking his version on the mining lease issued in his favour when he himself holds the Mining and Environment portfolios.
Owning a lease violates Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with Disqualification for Government contracts, etc, EC sources had said. The issue is still pending with the EC. The plea before the Jharkhand High Court had sought a probe into alleged irregularities in the grant of mining lease as also the transactions of some shell companies allegedly linked to the chief minister’s family members and associates.
On June 3, the high court had said it was of the considered opinion that writ petitions cannot be thrown away on the ground of maintainability and it will proceed to hear the matters on merit. In its order, a division bench of the high court had said, “This court, after having answered the issue, as framed by this court, and on the basis of discussions made hereinabove, is summing up its view and is of the considered opinion that the writ petitions cannot be thrown away on the ground of maintainability.” On May 24, the apex court had asked the high court to first hear the preliminary objections to the maintainability of the PIL seeking a probe.
It had passed the May 24 order on a petition filed by the state against two high court orders in the matter. The top court had also made it clear that it has not made any observation concerning the merit of the case and not dealt with the allegations levelled in the petition.
It had noted that three PILs have been filed before the high court seeking an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the allegations of corruption, misuse of office and money laundering against Soren. Both Soren and his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) have denied the allegations.