Illegal mining case: Hemant Soren to appear before ED today
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is likely to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Ranchi on Thursday in relation to the illegal mining case in Sahibganj district. Addressing a press conference before his appearance in front of the ED, he termed the allegations against him a conspiracy. He said the way summons are being issued, it seemed he would flee the country.
Why does this story matter?
- Soren is accused of extending a mining lease of a stone quarry to himself while holding a public office in violation of the electoral law.
- Earlier this month, the ED issued a summons to Soren in the case just one day in advance.
- Soren skipped the summons, daring the ED to arrest him, and accused the BJP of harassing his government using federal agencies.
Not possible, says Soren on allegations
Soren said it was beyond his understanding how the probe agency arrived at the figure of Rs. 1,000 crore in the illegal mining case. He categorically denied the allegations, saying it is "not possible." Soren was likely to visit the ED office alone, while the coalition lawmakers were to stay at the CM House, Indian Express reported.
Hold constitutional post, not a fugitive: Soren
#Jharkhand Chief Minister #HemantSoren's press conference ahead of questioning by ED in money laundering case.— Mirror Now (@MirrorNow) November 17, 2022
He says, "Attempts are being made to destabilise the Govt. I think ED should investigate properly before levelling allegations." pic.twitter.com/LyheCTC5pL
What is the case?
The case is related to alleged money laundering linked to illegal mining in the state. The ED arrested Soren's aide Pankaj Mishra in the case, accusing him of illegally acquiring large assets. In July, the ED raided 19 locations in Jharkhand related to Mishra and his accomplices. The agency claims to have identified proceeds in the case to the tune of Rs. 1,000 crore.
Cases of extortion, illegal arms, explosives slapped
The ED identified Mishra's illegally acquired assets, amounting to Rs. 42 crore. It said Mishra—MLA from Barhait, Sahibganj—enjoys political clout and controls the illegal mining trade and inland ferry services in the district. Following the case, several FIRs for illegal mining, extortion, explosive substances, and illegal arms have been registered against him. Mishra's musclemen Bachchu Yadav and Prem Prakash were arrested.
ECI recommended Soren's disqualification to Jharkhand governor
Following a plea in August, Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais sought the Election Commission of India's (ECI) opinion in the illegal mining case. The ECI wrote back recommending Soren's disqualification from the state Assembly over holding an office of profit in violation of the electoral law.
SC scrapped PIL for ED probe against Soren
Last week, the Supreme Court set aside the Jharkhand High Court's order that upheld public interest litigation (PIL) for an investigation against Soren in the illegal mining case. Meanwhile, Soren asked the ECI to furnish a copy of Bais's letter to it seeking an opinion in the case. The matter was raised by former CM and BJP leader Raghubar Das in February.