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Supreme Court to take up Hemant Soren’s plea against ED summons on Sept 18

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to put off hearing Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren’s petition against the summons issued to him by the Enforcement Directorate to September 18 on a request by the chief minister’s legal team on Monday.

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren after the first coordination committee meeting of opposition bloc INDIA at Sharad Pawar’s residence in New Delhi on September 13. (HT File Photo/Raj K Raj)

Soren’s petition came up on Friday before a bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi, which accepted a request to adjourn the case to Monday as senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is to appear for Soren, was not available.

Hemant Soren’s petition linked the ED move to issue summons to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief to the national elections next year, asserting that the ED notice for the chief minister’s appearance was designed to threaten, humiliate and intimidate political leaders at a time when opposition parties have united to form the INDIA coalition.

The summons, he added, were meant to destabilise an elected democratic government ahead of the general elections.

“With the general elections approaching soon in next 7-8 months, the political atmosphere in country has been vitiated by the ruling regime. All efforts have been made to threaten, humiliate and intimidate the political leaders, and particularly, when the opposition has united to form INDIA alliance in which the petitioner and his party are vocal participant and integral part of alliance and who are not aligned with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).”

Soren and the JMM are part of the opposition bloc of 28 political parties, Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance,

Soren said he was unaware of the alleged offence or criminal case in connection with which ED seeks to question him. “Non-disclosure of the ECIR (that corresponds to FIR) or the remit of investigation of the ED would enable a roving and fishing inquiry, which is impermissible in law,” the plea said.

The petition also sought to challenge the constitutional validity of section 50 of PMLA, under which summons is issued and section 63, which arms the ED with vast powers to secure statement or confession of persons during interrogation, use it against them during trial, and even launch criminal proceedings for “false” information.

Lawyer Zoheb Hossain, appearing for ED, told the top court on Friday that the issues raised in Soren’s petition were covered by the Vijay Madanlal judgment, a reference to the July 27, 2022 verdict in which ED’s powers to search, seize and arrest were upheld.

In August last year, the top court, however, agreed to revisit its judgment in open court on a review petition filed by Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram among others. Karti is facing ED probe in the INX Media case.

Another bench of the top court earlier this year admitted a petition by Congress leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Assembly Govind Singh that squarely challenges the validity of Sections 50 and 63, the same provisions which Soren has also spotlighted. A similar challenge has also been raised by some accused in the Chhattisgarh liquor scam case and the same is pending for consideration.

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