HC Restrains Lokpal From Taking Steps Till May 10 On CBI Report On JMM Properties Linked To Soren

The Lokpal has also asked the CBI to keep it posted on the progress of its probe by sending monthly reports.

HC Restrains Lokpal From Taking Steps Till May 10 On CBI Report On JMM Properties Linked To Soren Photo: PTI

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday restrained the Lokpal of India from taking any further steps till May 10 following the filing of a CBI report on its investigation into two properties of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) allegedly linked to party president Shibu Soren.

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who had filed the complaint before the Lokpal, on JMM’s petition challenging the ombudsman’s March 4 order directing the CBI to probe the two properties owned by the Jharkhand's ruling party.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on May 10.

“Issue notice. CBI is permitted to give its report in a sealed cover to the Lokpal. However, no further steps be taken by the Lokpal till the next date of hearing,” the high court said.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arunabh Chowdhury, appearing for the JMM, submitted that the two properties belong to the political party and not Soren.

The counsel contended that the March 4 order was beyond the jurisdiction of the Lokpal of India under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

They asserted an inquiry under the statute can only be initiated against a person and not a political party, and since the CBI has already come to a conclusion in its earlier report that the properties belong to the JMM, the Lokpal’s order goes beyond the ambit of the Act.

The anti-corruption ombudsman has, on Dubey's complaint, directed the CBI to probe within six months the alleged benami properties linked to JMM chief Shibu Soren.

The Lokpal, which has also directed the CBI to probe the two properties belonging to the JMM, passed the direction while disposing of the August 5, 2020 complaint by Dubey, who represents Jharkhand's Godda constituency in the Lok Sabha.

The JMM's petition, filed in the high court through advocate Abhishek Roy, said the Lokpal’s order was ex-facie bad in law and without jurisdiction. The petition claimed the order was passed "behind the back" of the JMM.

It said no notice was issued to the JMM before the order was passed and it was not granted an opportunity to be heard.

In his complaint to the Lokpal, Dubey had alleged that Soren and his family members indulged in "rampant corruption" and amassed huge wealth disproportionate to their known and declared sources of income by adopting "unscrupulous and corrupt means". Soren amassed these assets in his own name, the names of his family members, friends, associates and companies in various districts of Jharkhand, including Ranchi, Dhanbad and Dumka, the BJP leader claimed.

The Lokpal has also asked the CBI to keep it posted on the progress of its probe by sending monthly reports.

The Lokpal has also said the two properties in question stood in the name of the JMM, a political party founded by Soren, a Rajya Sabha MP, and were purchased through him in 2014.

"The JMM is controlled and run by the RPS (respondent public servant, that is, Shibu Soren) and his family members, who wield enormous political clout," it had said.

The party appears to be virtually a family affair, with RPS and his several family members holding important political positions. The RPS, being the president of the JMM, is actively associated with its decisions and transactions, the Lokpal had said.

“In the light of the material on record, without casting any aspersions on the JMM as a political party, with which we have nothing to do in the matter, we are of the considered view that the role of the RPS in acquisition of these two properties in the name of JMM should be investigated,” it had said in the March 4 order.

The Lokpal has said Soren was at the centre of the issues involved, and considering the nature of the allegations and the number of properties that have emerged in the preliminary enquiry (PE) report, it would be failing in its statutory duty if the sources of the funds utilised in the purchase of these properties are not probed thoroughly.

The complaint said Soren and his son, former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, have made huge investments in various companies owned by Amit Agarwal, who is a close friend, and his family members, according to the order.