The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the appeal of Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren and the state government against the Jharkhand High court order. SC also set aside the Jharkhand High Court's June 3 order. A bench of Justices U U Lalit, S R Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia had reserved its judgement on August 17 on separate pleas of the Jharkhand government and Soren against the high court’s order that accepted the maintainability of the PILs.
"Satyamev Jayate," Soren, who has been accused of granting himself a mining lease as the state's mining minister, said on Twitter after the Supreme Court's ruling.
“We have allowed these two appeals and have set aside the June 3, 2022 order passed by the Jharkhand High Court, holding that these PILs were not maintainable,” the bench said.
The apex court had earlier restrained the high court from proceedings with the PILs seeking a probe against Soren in the mining lease issue. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state government, had earlier submitted that the high court had decided on maintainability even before all the documents were placed before it. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Soren, had questioned the credentials of the PIL petitioner.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, had said criminal petitions should not be thrown out on technical grounds. BJP national vice president and former Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das 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 sent a notice to Soren in May seeking his version on the mining lease issued in his favour when he held 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 poll panel. The pleas 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 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 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 PILs seeking a probe. It had passed the order on a petition filed by the state against two high court orders in the matter. It 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.
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