DC Edit | Hemant back, questions for ED

Hemant Soren sworn in as CM after bail; High Court questions ED's arrest, calls for safeguarding democratic processes under PMLA

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Hemant Soren was sworn in as the chief minister of Jharkhand after being in prison for five months, putting him in a small league of CMs who have taken oath of office after a stint in jail.

Mr Soren was incarcerated over corruption charges. The Enforcement Directorate arrested him under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with a case of allegedly illegal sale and purchase of 4.55 acres of land in Ranchi that reportedly belongs to the Indian Army.

Justice Rongon Mukhopadhyay, judge of the Jharkhand high court, while granting bail to Hemant Soren, made scathing remarks on the maintainability of the ED’s charges, and observed that there were reasons for the court to believe that Mr Soren was perhaps not guilty of the PMLA offence.

The judge also said in his order that the present case was based on circumstantial evidence, which is insufficient to prove someone guilty under established norms of Indian and global jurisprudence. However, the ED appears to have gone ahead with the arrest of Mr Hemant Soren armed with special provisions of the PMLA, the judge observed. Mr Soren was duly elected as the representative of the people of Jharkhand, the court also noted in its observations.

This begs the question: If the ED could not prove charges levelled against him, how would the Central investigative agency make good his loss of reputation and time? This was exactly what the court wondered and sought to know.

If an investigative agency could arrest an elected chief minister merely on circumstantial evidence, it amounts to violation of the federal spirit of the Constitution, too, and is a subversion of the people’s mandate. It is akin to the Central government hijacking the people’s choice, especially of an Opposition party, through its investigating agency.

It is, therefore, high time that the Supreme Court intervenes to introduce necessary safeguards in the PMLA.

Mr Soren’s return to the CM’s chair is a victory of democracy, but it has raised yet another question on the credibility of the Enforcement Directorate.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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