Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren – arrested late Wednesday night by the Enforcement Directorate on money laundering charges – has been sent to judicial custody for one day, with a definitive ruling on the central agency’s request for 10-day custody expected Friday afternoon.
The Ranchi special court before which Mr Soren – whom the agency claims was directly involved in the alleged Rs 600 crore land scam – was presented this morning delayed passing its final order, because the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of a petition by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader.
Hours before he was produced in the special court, Mr Soren had moved the Supreme Court to challenge his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate. In his petition, he said the agency had “abused its power and acted in a malafide manner to destabilise a democratically-elected state government”.
He also called his arrest “illegal and without jurisdiction”; Mr Soren has already filed one case against senior officers of the probe agency under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Act.
“The ED is brazenly acting under the (diktats) of the central government and hounding the petitioner to destabilise a democratically-elected government headed by the petitioner…” he complained.
A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud agreed to hear the plea at 2 pm Friday.
Visuals from earlier in the day showed a confident Mr Soren smiling and waving as he exited a vehicle and was escorted inside the Ranchi courtroom, surrounded by ED officials and security personnel.
Meanwhile, Champai Soren, who is expected to replace Hemant Soren as the Chief Minister, will meet Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan at 5.30 pm. In a brief letter this morning, he said he had the support of a majority of lawmakers and the ability to “provide a stable government in the state”.
He also red-flagged the lack of a functioning government and the “situation of confusion”, and said, “…the MLAs, and people of the state, expect you will take steps to form a popular government.”
Champai Soren, the Transport Minister, is seen as an acceptable alternative to Hemant Soren’s original plan – to make his wife, Kalpana Soren, the Chief Minister till he returns to power.
There was, however, opposition to that idea, with many in the party, including the Chief Minister’s extended family, who said Ms Soren – not a MLA – did not have the necessary experience.
Hemant Soren was arrested Wednesday night amid high drama all this week, starting with “the case of the missing Chief Minister” that played out from Monday morning to Tuesday afternoon.
He had flown into Delhi Saturday night and was reportedly seen leaving his home in the city’s Shantiniketan area the following night – on foot and with a shawl around his head.
The Enforcement Directorate turned up at 7 am the following day to find the house empty and Mr Soren’s whereabouts unknown. The agency said it seized Rs 36 lakh in cash and a luxury SUV.
Mr Soren remained “missing” till Tuesday, when he popped up in Ranchi to hold a meeting of his party’s lawmakers. Reports said he had taken a nearly 1,300 km road trip from Delhi.
After he emerged in Ranchi, he was questioned by the ED for over seven hours.
As the day wore on, it became clear Hemant Soren would be arrested and, in dramatic final moments, NDTV was told he refused to sign his arrest memo till he had resigned.
This, sources said, was to avoid the distinction of becoming the first sitting Chief Minister to be arrested. Giving in to his demand, the ED team took Mr Soren to Raj Bhavan to resign.
He was then taken to the agency’s office in the city and formally arrested.
With input from agencies
NDTV is now available on WhatsApp channels. Click on the link to get all the latest updates from NDTV on your chat.