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Jharkhand Govt Asks Departments To Not Answer Central Agencies Directly Amid ED Summons For CM Soren

The Jharkhand cabinet's decision to design a standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with the central probe agencies was taken at a meeting chaired by CM Hemant Soren on Tuesday.

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Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren
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The Jharkhand government on Tuesday issued instructions for all the departments directing them to not answer any queries by central probe agencies or hand over any documents to them directly. Instead, the departments have been directed to report all queries to the Cabinet Secretariat or the Vigilance Department for processing. The state cabinet adopted the decision at a time when Chief Minister Hemant Soren and several other officials are facing multiple summons from the federal financial investigation agency Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Although the Jharkhand government has explained the development as a step towards streamlining the process to ensure incomplete information is not handed over, experts have reportedly interpreted the move as a form of non-cooperation with central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, and the Income Tax department. 

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The cabinet's decision to design a standard operating procedure (SOP) was taken at a meeting chaired by Soren in view of "handing over of documents to external probe agencies without bringing this to the knowledge of state officials concerned".

All about the Jharkhand govt's instruction

Briefing the media after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Vandana Dadel said, "The cabinet secretariat and vigilance department have been made nodal departments to deal with such issues and legal actions in the matter."

She said that according to the new SOP, if any official receives any notice or summons from any external probe agency, he or she will immediately inform the department head concerned.

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"The nodal department will obtain legal advice accordingly. In light of the advice from the department, the official will provide necessary cooperation to the probe agency," Dadel said. 

According to a cabinet note, it came to the notice of the state government in recent past that many summonses or notices were issued directly to officials asking them to appear before external probe agencies without providing information to the competent authority of the state government.

"In many cases, government documents/records are also demanded by an (external) investigating agency. 

"In certain cases,… officials hand over the documents/records to the agency without bringing it to the notice of their senior officer/departmental head, which is not in accordance with the prevailing rules. This adversely affects the activities of the state government," the note read.

ED summons CM Hemant Soren

In connection with certain alleged cases of corruption involving "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned the chief minister and several officers for questioning. However, Soren has skipped six earlier summonses by ED accusing the union government of using central agencies to destabilize his democratically elected government. The seventh summons was issued in December last year.

The agency has also summoned Soren's press adviser Abhishek Prasad and Sahibganj Deputy Commissioner Ram Niwas Yadav for questioning in a money laundering case investigation linked to alleged illegal mining in the state, officials said.

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