The Supreme Court will hear Hemant Soren's plea against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a land scam today. A special three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, and comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh and Bela M Trivedi will hear the matter at 10:30 am.
Hemant Soren, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday, was sent to judicial custody for a day on Thursday after he was produced before a special PMLA court in Ranchi.
Meanwhile, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) veteran Champai Soren, who was named by Hemant Soren as his successor, will take oath as the Chief Minister today, between 12 pm and 2 pm, sources said. Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan on Thursday appointed him as the Chief Minister designate and invited him to take oath. The Governor, however, has asked Champai Soren to prove his majority in 10 days.
Here are the latest developments in this big story:
The special three-judge bench to hear Hemant Soren's case today was set up by CJI Chandrachud, according to the updated causelist of the Supreme Court. The former Jharkhand Chief Minister has sought quashing of summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate, calling it "illegal and impinge on his fundamental rights".
Hemant Soren had first moved the Jharkhand High Court. However, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the former Jharkhand Chief Minister, later told the CJI-led bench that the plea would be withdrawn from the High Court. On Thursday, both appeared for Hemant Soren before the Supreme Court and mentioned his plea as an urgent listing.
Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan on Thursday nominated Champai Soren as the JMM legislative party leader and invited him to take oath. His decision came after several leaders, including Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, highlighted the delay in his oath-taking. Champai Soren had staked claim to form the government, urging the Governor to accept the same at the earliest, citing "confusion" and deepened political crisis in the state.
In his plea, Hemant Soren said that he approached the top court because his is a clear case of abuse of law by the Centre and misuse of central agencies to harass him, and in doing so, destablise the democratically elected Jharkhand government. He further claimed the central agency is acting at the behest of the BJP-led Centre to fuel its "political ambition" in the state and also in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Before Champai Soren met the Jharkhand Governor on Thursday, the ruling coalition of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal released a video statement of the 43 Opposition MLAs backing the Chief Minister designate. Later, Champai Soren was accompanied by Congress legislative party leader Alamgir Alam, RJD MLA Satyanand Bhokta, CPI (ML) L legislator Vinod Singh and lawmaker Pradeep Yadav to meet Governor CP Radhakrishnan.
In an attempt to ring-fence ruling coalition MLAs and thwart poaching bids by the BJP, the majorilty alliance in Jharkhand planned to shift their MLAs to Hyderabad on Thursday. Two chartered planes were supposed to take 39 coalition MLAs, including Hemant Soren's brother MLA Basant Soren, to Hyderabad, but their flight failed to take off due to poor weather and low visibility.
Before Jharkhand Governor appointed Champai Soren as Chief Minister designate, the latter asserted that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha alliance is "quite strong" and "no one can disrupt it". He said while as many as 43 MLAs are with them now, the number will "comfortably" reach 46 or 47. "Our gathbandhan is very strong," Champai Soren added.
Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav on Thursday slammed the BJP over the arrest of Hemant Soren by the Enforcement Directorate, calling it a "dictatorial" move by the Centre. "The fear of BJP is well known, and the public has also understood this now. We are strongly with Hemant," his post on X, roughly translated from Hindi, read.
The Enforcement Directorate had sought seven to eight days of custody of Hemant Soren from the PMLA court. The federal agency cited the former Jharkhand Chief Minister's non-cooperation during the investigation, evasive attitude when asked about the allegations, and adequate material evidence based on which custodial interrogation is needed. In the end, Hemant Soren was given one-day judicial custody.
The BJP on Thursday slammed the supporters of Hemant Soren for accusing the Centre of harassing the tribal leader, with senior leader and ex-Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying the ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister has been arrested for his involvement in "corruption and loot" in the state. "The (PM) Narendra Modi government cares a lot about the tribal society," he added.