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My arrest is wrong; no basis for ED to invoke PMLA: CM Soren tells SC

Apex court asks Soren whether a writ court can examine the legality of his arrest after the trial court has taken cognizance of the prosecution complaint filed by the ED.

soren 1NEW DELHI: Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that his arrest was “wrong” and that there was no basis for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to invoke PMLA against him.

A bench of justices, Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma, were hearing the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader’s plea seeking interim bail.

The court asked Soren whether a writ court can examine the legality of his arrest after the trial court has taken cognizance of the prosecution complaint filed by the ED in the money laundering case against him related to an alleged land scam.

“There is a judicial forum order which says there is a commission of an offence. We have been called to ascertain whether the arrest was warranted based on the material. You (Sibal) have to persuade us that despite these two orders (rejecting bail), we can get into the legality of the arrest,” the court informed senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the JMM leader.

Sibal arguned that no offence has been made out under the PMLA as illegal possession of land is not a scheduled offence under the act.

“I am arrested on January 31, 2024, and there is nothing against me till that date to invoke PMLA against me. No offence is made out even if everything they (ED) say is accepted. Illegal possession of land is not a scheduled offence. I am saying arrest is itself wrong since all the material in possession does not make out a case for an arrest,” Sibal said.

Opposing Sibal’s submissions, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju, who appeared for the ED, said that Soren had been in illegal possession since 2009–10. He argued that Soren does not hold the title to the 8.86 acres nor is his name listed in any records, but his possession of the land constitutes an offence.

Raju also contended that Soren’s case was different from that of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was granted interim bail on May 10 for campaigning in the general elections. He said the trial court had on April 4 taken cognisance of the prosecution complaint, ED’s equivalent of a charge sheet, upon finding that a prima facie case was made out against Soren.

Vehemently opposing the ED’s charges against Soren that he had forcibly acquired the land, Sibal argued that everything was being “cooked up” and “fabricated by them (ED).”

Sibal also questioned the ED’s claim that the JMM leader had forcibly occupied the land in 2009–10, pointing out that no proceedings were initiated against him until April 20, 2023. He noted that there had been no complaints or actions taken between 2010 and 2023

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