A division bench of the Jharkhand High Court on Friday said it will hear on June 23 the PILs seeking a probe into shell companies allegedly operated by people close to Chief Minister Hemant Soren to launder money and the issuance of mining lease in his name.
Hearing the PILs, the division bench of Chief Justice Dr Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad expressed anguish over the state government’s plea to adjourn the proceedings.
The bench observed that they are intrigued as on the one hand, the government is taking the stand that they have moved before the Supreme Court, and on the other hand, when the case is taken up, the counsel pleads for adjournments.
Additional advocate general Ashutosh Anand pleaded for an adjournment in the PILs that sought a “probe into the shell companies” and “granting of mining lease in the CM’s name while being in office”.
The high court made it clear to the government counsels here that it will hear the matter on June 23 and by that time, either the advocate general should appear or if he doesn’t due to ill health or otherwise, then some other advocate should be engaged by the state government.
The government filed a petition seeking adjournment on account of ill health of advocate general Rajiv Ranjan and senior advocate Kapil Sibal. Both Ranjan and Sibal are said to have contracted Covid-19.
Meanwhile, it had also moved the Supreme Court against the earlier orders of the high court passed in view of the two PILs.
However, the high court was informed in course of proceedings that the counsel for the state government in Delhi sought an adjournment before the Supreme Court.
The apex court has fixed the matter for hearing on July 11.
The bench reiterated that the Supreme Court has also directed the high court to decide the matter of maintainability on the first date of hearing itself. The case will be heard through video conferencing.
The division bench on June 3 had passed an order, affirming the maintainability of the PILs. It had observed that the fate of the cases is not known but the causes raised in the two petitions prima facie make out a case of public interest.
The chief justice had told the AG that the state is free to challenge any order, but the high court was not restrained to hear the matter.
One of the PILs seeks a CBI probe into the shell companies operated allegedly by people close to Soren to launder money.
The other alleged that a mining lease was issued in his name while being in office, which is a violation of the mandate for not holding an office of profit.
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any interim directions on a Jharkhand government appeal challenging the order of the high court which had accepted the maintainability of a plea seeking a probe against the chief minister in mining cases.
“Let the high court decide the matter. The issue cannot be entertained piecemeal,” a vacation bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and Hima Kohli said.
The top court posted the matter for hearing before an appropriate bench post-summer vacations on the request of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government.
Rohatgi said the case against the chief minister was politically motivated to destabilise the government.
The senior advocate said the high court is hearing the matter on a day-to-day basis and it was difficult for him to comprehend the urgency of the case.
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