Mining License Row: SC Stays PIL Proceedings in HC against Jharkhand CM Soren

Sowmiya Rajendrakumar

Published on: August 18, 2022 at 20:45 IST

The Supreme Court stayed all proceedings in Three Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in the Jharkhand High Court over alleged irregularities in the grant of a mining lease and in MNREGS contracts, as well as transactions of some shell companies allegedly run by his family.

The PILs request that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to investigate the chief minister and his family members.

A bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Sudhanshu Dhulia also refused to examine an ED report in a sealed cover claiming incriminating material against Soren.

“In a PIL, the allegations before the Court are unquestionably bound by the petition’s four corners.” It cannot be coloured with anything else. Otherwise, judicial discipline will go haywire,” it added.

The bench also reserved its decision on separate petitions by the Jharkhand government and Soren challenging a High Court order that accepted the plea’s maintainability.

“The present petitioner (before the High Court) has not brought any prima facie material before the High Court.” “The averments (in the PILs) as of today are sketchy and superficial,” the bench observed.

After hearing Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi on behalf of the state and the CM respectively, and Additional Solicitor General S V Raju for the ED, the bench, also comprising Justices Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, said: “The order is reserved. Since this court is seized of the matter, the High Court shall not proceed further with writ petitions”.

Sibal questioned the maintainability of the PILs, saying that the petitioner did not file an FIR, instead approached the High Court in the matter. He also claimed the PIL was not in consonance with the Jharkhand High Court PIL rules.

Rohatgi pointed out that there was no prima facie satisfaction of the High Court in the matter. During the hearing, the court also noted that the Chief Minister already had these lands measuring 0.88 acres before he assumed office and it is not as if the office was misused to amass wealth.

ASG Raju, for his part, submitted that petitions should not be thrown out on technical grounds, and technicality should not come in the way in the matter concerning corruption.

During the previous hearing, the Court had asked Soren, to submit a copy of the Writ Petition filed before the High Court which had sought an independent probe against him.

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