JHARKHAND: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Jharkhand High Court to first decide on the maintainability of pending Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking a probe into allegations against state Chief Minister Hemant Soren in connection with the allotment of mining leases, before venturing into their merits.
A vacation bench presided by Justice D Y Chandrachcud said “the sequence of events… indicates that the High Court had by order dated May 13, 2022, specifically noted that it would consider the preliminary objection to the maintainability of writ petition 4290 of 2021 and deal with the merits thereafter if required on the next date of hearing”.
“Since the high court has fairly stated that in its order dated May 13, 2002 that it would deal with the issue of maintainability of the petition upfront, we are of the considered view that it would be appropriate in the interest of justice if the HC Division bench presided over by the Chief Justice does so without proceeding to the merits of the PIL. We accordingly order and direct that the issue as to maintainability should be dealt with by the HC on the next date of listing when the proceedings are due to come up. Based on the outcome of the objection to the maintainability of the proceedings, the HC may thereafter proceed in accordance with the law,” ordered the bench, also comprising Justice Bela M Trivedi.
The court was hearing a plea by the state of Jharkhand challenging the May 13 and May 17 orders of the high court in the PIL.
During the hearing, the court also remarked orally that “even if it (High Court) rejects the PIL, that will not preclude ED from doing what it has to under the law”.
Appearing for the state, senior advocate Kapil Sibal questioned the credentials of the petitioner Shiv Shankar Sharma and said his background was undisclosed. “His father gave evidence qua Soren’s father (Shibu Soren) in a murder case,” he pointed out.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI and Directorate of Enforcement (ED), said that in 2010-12 there were 15 FIRs registered with regard to MNREGA fund embezzlements and that based on this predicate offense, proceedings under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were initiated.
The ED raided IAS officer Pooja Singhal in connection with the MGNREGA scam and “found that she apart from being connected with MGNREGA at the relevant time, was also secretary (mines)” in Jharkhand, said Mehta.
The ED “also found material which shows direct linkage with political higher-ups”, he submitted, adding that of “a list of 28 companies given by the petitioner, the money trail led to some of these companies”. He added that the matter is “very very serious and authentic, there is a money trail found”. Mehta contended that his “apprehension is the evidence is being destroyed”.
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(MARCH – APRIL)