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SC to hear on Friday plea of JMM leader Hemant Soren against arrest in money laundering case

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Friday a plea of former Jharkhand chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.

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Soren, who was arrested on Wednesday night after resigning as the Jharkhand chief minister, had first moved the state high court challenging his arrest in the case.

Acting Chief Justice Shree Chandrashekhar and Justice Anubha Rawat Choudhary of the Jharkhand High Court were scheduled to hear Soren’s plea at 10.30 am on Thursday.

However, a battery of lawyers led by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi changed their strategy and decided to move the top court instead of pursuing their remedy before the Jharkhand High Court.

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"We will be withdrawing the petition in the high court... the manner of arrest just before the general elections has an adverse impact on polity of the country," Sibal told a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General SV Raju opposed the plea of Soren, saying the high court is already scheduled to hear the petition on Thursday.

Sibal disputed the timing and other procedural aspects related to arrest of Soren, and said this is a "serious matter" and asked as to how a chief minister of a state be arrested like this.

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"Very serious allegations against him too," the ASG countered.

"We will keep it tomorrow...We haven't read the papers," the CJI said and asked the lawyers of both sides to keep their ammunition ready for Friday.

The solicitor general said thousands of people are arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and all of them cannot come to the top court straightaway.

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Soren was arrested on Wednesday after a marathon seven-hour grilling by the ED in the case.

Prior to this development, Soren had gone to the Raj Bhawan to tender his resignation accompanied by alliance legislators. The ED team was also present there.

Sources claimed that the 48-year-old Soren was "evasive" in his replies during the ED questioning and hence was taken into custody under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

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The ED is expected to produce Soren before a special PMLA court at Ranchi and the agency will seek his remand for custodial interrogation, the sources had said.

The allegations of money laundering against the JMM leader pertain to the alleged illegal possession of certain immovable assets apart from his purported links with members of the 'land mafia'.

The investigation is linked to a "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, according to the central probe agency.

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The ED has so far arrested 14 people in the case, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan who served as the director of the state's Social Welfare Department and deputy commissioner of Ranchi.

The ED is probing the alleged "huge amounts of proceeds of crime generated by manipulation of official records by showing dummy sellers and purchasers in the guise of forged/ bogus documents to acquire huge parcels of land having value in crores''.

An ED team searched Soren’s Delhi residence on Monday, and camped there for almost 13 hours in order to question him in the money laundering case.

The agency claimed to have seized Rs 36 lakh, an SUV and some "incriminating" documents during the search. PTI SJK ABA SJK DV DV

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