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SC slams Soren for suppressing facts in plea against arrest by ED

Last updated on: May 22, 2024 20:28 IST

Jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Wednesday failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court which pulled him up for "suppressing material facts" in his plea against his arrest in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

IMAGE: Former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren. Photograph: ANI Photo

A vacation bench of justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma allowed Soren's counsel Kapil Sibal to withdraw the pleas for interim bail for Lok Sabha poll campaigning and against his arrest after the apex court indicated that it would dismiss them as Soren has not approached the court with clean hands.

The court pointed out that Soren did not apprise it of the April 4 order of the special PMLA court taking cognisance of the prosecution complaint, which is the Enforcement Directorate's equivalent to a charge sheet, and also that his regular bail petition was filed on April 15 and dismissed on May 13.

"... you had approached two courts for the same relief... We have doubts that your client (Soren) was acting in a bona fide manner... This is not the way you try to come before the court, without disclosing material facts... Your conduct is not fully without a blemish," it said.


Sibal claimed it was a "mistake" by him but he had no intention to mislead the court and his client Soren had no role in it.

The ED had earlier told the apex court that Soren's arrest on January 31 has been upheld by the Jharkhand high court and his regular bail application was dismissed by the trial court on May 13.

On May 13, Soren had referred to the top court's order granting interim bail to Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal in the money laundering case linked to the alleged Delhi excise scam and sought identical relief for himself.

As the court rebuked Soren on Wednesday, Sibal tried to defend the JMM chief saying that he was in custody and nobody was in touch with him.

"The fault is mine, not of the client. He has not instructed us. I may be wrong and I plead guilty. It was a mistake on my part," he said.

But the court was not convinced.

"It's not about mistakes, we have doubts that your client (Soren) was acting in a bona fide manner. He was in a position of trust. He is not a layman," the bench told Sibal.

It further said, "We expected some candour from your client. He should have said that he had already applied for bail and there is an order of cognisance. These facts were not told to us. This is not the way you try to come before the court, without disclosing material facts."

The bench allowed Soren to avail his remedy of bail before the high court.

Questioning Soren's conduct of not disclosing complete facts before the court, Justice Datta said that he should have informed the bench that he had already applied for bail before the special PMLA court in Ranchi and it had been dismissed.

"Mr Sibal, in fact, you were pursuing parallel remedies. Parallel in the sense that you had approached two courts for the same relief. One is for bail and the other for interim bail before the Supreme Court," Justice Datta said.

Sibal pointed out that in another appeal before the top court, where he has sought direction to the high court for the pronouncement of the verdict on his plea against his arrest, he had mentioned the April 4 cognisance order in additional documents.

Justice Datta told Sibal, "In the course of argument, one sentence was there but in the list of dates it was not there. As lawyers, we all know how to draft petitions. Therefore, to avoid a charge of suppression, something is squeezed in. But in the list of dates which is also part of the synopsis which has to be filed with the petition, containing all facts and figures till that date, it is missing."

At the outset, the bench gave Sibal the list of dates of the sequence of events in Soren's case since his arrest and asked where had the former chief minister stated about the April 4 cognisance order and about the fact that he had filed the regular bail application.

Sibal said that it was a fault on his part and not on the part of his client (Soren) and said, "The client is in jail. We are all lawyers acting for him. Our intention was never to hoodwink the court, we have never done it in our lives. Our intention is never to mislead the court, we have never done it."

The bench told Sibal not to take it upon himself as he is a senior advocate and it is not possible for him to know everything that is happening.

"We can simpliciter dismiss your special leave petition, without commenting on merit but if you argue on points of law, we will have to deal with it and maybe that could be damaging for you," the bench warned.

Sensing the mood of the court, Sibal said dismissal will be more damaging and he would like to withdraw the appeal so that he can take his chance elsewhere.

The bench said, "Your conduct is not fully without a blemish. You are coming with blameworthy conduct. That hurdle you have not crossed. That is why we have said Mr Sibal. We give you the option. You take your chances elsewhere."

"I have been wrongly dealt with by the court," Sibal said, and complained that the high court judge, despite knowing that a prosecution complaint is to be filed in 60 days, had kept the order pending for nearly two months and left him without any remedy.

The bench said it cannot comment on other judges and it is very difficult to regulate the business of the high court or other courts.

The ED has alleged that "huge amounts of proceeds of crime" were generated by Soren through manipulation of official records by showing dummy sellers and purchasers in the guise of forged/bogus documents to acquire huge parcels of land having value in crores of rupees.

The probe against Soren pertains to an 8.86-acre plot of land in Ranchi that the ED has alleged was illegally acquired by him.

Soren is currently lodged in judicial custody in Ranchi's Birsa Munda Central Jail.

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