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Jharkhand High Court grants bail to former chief minister Hemant Soren in land scam case

According Hemant Soren's attorney Arunabh Chowdhury, the court found him not guilty of the offence

Hemant Soren, the former chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha stalwart was granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court on 28th June. Soren was arrested by the ED in January this year in connection with a money laundering case involving a land scam.

According to his attorney, Arunabh Chowdhury, the court found him not guilty of the offence. He stated, “Bail has been granted to Soren. The court has held that prima facie he is not guilty of the offence and there is no likelihood of the petitioner committing an offence when on bail.” On 13th June, the high court reserved its decision regarding his bail petition.

SV Raju, the agency’s lawyer, contended that he would do a similar crime if he was allowed bail. The 48-year-old was eventually arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on 31st January in connection with its investigation into the money-laundering case after a protracted hide-and-seek scenario. The probe was related to an illegal possession of 8.36 acres of land. The inquiry focuses on large sums of money obtained through the falsification of official records, involving “fake sellers” and buyers who used forged or counterfeit paperwork to purchase enormous tracts of land worth crores.

The Jharkhand Police filed several First Information Reports (FIRs) in land “scam” cases against various individuals, including state government officials, which led to the money laundering inquiry. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party loyalist and state transport minister Champai Soren was named as his successor after his resignation. He reporetdly tried to dodge the inteorrgataion and even skipped nine Enforcement Directorate summons. Hemant Soren who is the executive president of the party is currently lodged in the Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi.

Notably, the Jharkhand Police had also issued to the ED officials after Soren had filed a case against the agency under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.  Soren had alleged that the ED’s searches at his residences were aimed at tarnishing his image and harassing him for being a tribal. But the Jharkhand High Court ordered no coercive action against ED officials after the agency filed a petition challenging Soren’s FIR.

The ED had claimed to have recovered Rs 36 lakh in cash and documents related to the investigation, alleging that Soren had acquired 8.5 acres of land through fraudulent means. The investigation revealed that a syndicate, including Revenue Sub-Inspector Bhanu Pratap Prasad, was involved in corrupt property acquisitions.

Soren’s petition to attend the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly’s budget session was dismissed by the High Court on February 29. He had resigned as Chief Minister following his arrest in the money laundering case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

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