In a significant development, the Jharkhand High Court has granted permission for the amendment application filed by former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, challenging the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) power of arrest under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, in connection with an alleged land scam. This decision, rendered by a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Shree Chandrashekhar and Justice Rajesh Kumar, sets the stage for further legal proceedings in this high-profile case.
The court has directed the central agency to submit a comprehensive reply to the amendment application within two weeks, scheduling the next hearing for February 27. This move underscores the judiciary’s commitment to ensuring a fair and transparent adjudication process while upholding the principles of natural justice.
ED had initially opposed the amendment application, arguing that it altered the essence of the original petition, which primarily focused on the power to issue summons under Section 50 of the PMLA. However, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Soren, invoked the Supreme Court’s order granting liberty to seek the amendment before the High Court, ultimately leading to the bench’s decision to allow the amendment application.
During the proceedings, Sibal emphasized the urgency of expeditiously hearing the matter on its merits, highlighting the significance of individual liberty in criminal cases. He underscored the need for swift action, expressing concern over the delay caused by the agency’s objections and its already-filed reply on the substantive issues.
Despite Sibal’s plea for an expedited process, the court deemed it necessary to issue a formal notice to the agency and provide adequate time for the submission of a comprehensive counter affidavit. This procedural step ensures that all parties involved have a fair opportunity to present their arguments and evidence before the court.
The backdrop of this legal battle traces back to Soren’s arrest by the ED on allegations related to a significant land scam in Jharkhand, where he is accused of being the principal beneficiary of unlawfully acquired land. His arrest came shortly after his resignation as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, adding political intrigue to the legal proceedings.
As the case unfolds, all eyes will be on the Jharkhand High Court, which serves as the arbiter of justice in this complex and contentious matter. The outcome of this legal saga will not only have implications for Soren but also for the broader legal landscape concerning allegations of financial impropriety and corruption.