Updated February 1st, 2024 at 17:34 IST
8.5 Acres of Land In Spotlight: ED's Case Against Hemant Soren Explained
The ED claimed that former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren has 'illegal possession' of a dozen land parcels in Ranchi.
- 4 min read
Ranchi: A dozen parcels of land in Ranchi, totaling approximately 8.5 acres, are alleged to be in the "illegal possession, occupation, and use" of the former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, who has been arrested. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) asserted that these lands constitute proceeds of crime under anti-money laundering laws.
Following his resignation as chief minister, Soren was apprehended by the ED on Wednesday night after being interrogated for over seven hours.
The ED initiated a criminal case against the 48-year-old JMM leader based on a June 2023 ECIR (Enforcement Directorate's term for FIR). This case originated from raids conducted on state government employee and revenue department Sub-Inspector Bhanu Pratap Prasad at various locations in the state.
According to official records, the ED recovered 11 trunks containing extensive property documents and 17 original registers from Prasad's premises. Prasad, who held custody of many original registers detailing land records and ownership information of the state, is accused by the ED of engaging in corrupt practices, including falsification of original records and collaborating with others in fraudulent activities related to acquiring land properties.
The information gathered by the ED was shared with the Jharkhand government, which filed a police FIR against Prasad at the Sadar police station in Ranchi on June 1, 2023. The central agency then used this FIR to file its ECIR on June 26, 2023.
The ED alleges that Prasad actively participated in conspiracies with others to unlawfully acquire and conceal various properties, including those acquired and possessed by Hemant Soren. These details, the ED claims, were also retrieved from Prasad's mobile phone.
Official documents indicate that Soren was arrested by the ED at 10 pm on Wednesday from the Governor House. During a personal search, the former CM declined to remove a religious locket and ring he was wearing.
The agency, explaining the grounds of arrest, said it recorded statements of several persons under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and this exercise "established" that 12 landed properties, situated next to each other, and measuring 8.5 acres in total, were under "illegal acquisition, possession and use of Soren and this has been kept concealed by him (Soren)".
It said a survey was conducted on these land plots that "established that the land is in illegal possession, occupation and use of Soren." Soren, on his part, contended that the said land fell under the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and it "cannot be transferred" and the special regulation officer in Ranchi had restored the possession of the land back to its original owner on January 29.
He also asserted that documents recovered from someone's phone cannot be taken as "gospel truth" to implicate and arrest him.
The JMM leader also filed a plea before the Supreme Court in Delhi on Thursday challenging his arrest from the "precinct of Governor House at 10 pm." The ED said it searched the residential premises of Soren in Delhi and seized Rs 36,34,500 cash from the cupboard of a room "under the use and occupation of Soren".
The agency claimed to also have seized some documents linked to this investigation from the house.
It said the 8.5-acre asset was a "proceeds of crime" which was in "unauthorised and illegal possession and use" of Soren.
Soren, it said, "knowingly was a party along with Bhanu Pratap Prasad and others in the activities connected with concealment of original records for projecting the property acquired by him in an illegal manner as an untainted property." It added Soren was "still enjoying" the said proceeds of crime and hence was "guilty of the offence of money laundering as per section 3 of PMLA.
(with PTI inputs)
Published February 1st, 2024 at 17:34 IST