ED Summons Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned chief minister Hemant Soren for questioning on Thursday in connection with the agency’s money laundering probe into alleged illegal mining in Jharkhand, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Officials, who did not want to be named, said Soren will be asked about the activities related to illegal mining and transportation on a large scale in alleged association with his political aide and ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Pankaj Mishra, who was arrested in July.

The federal anti-money laundering probe agency started its probe in the matter under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act based on a first information report (FIR) registered in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district against Mishra and others. It subsequently took over the probe into other cases related to alleged illegal mining in the state.

Soren has been summoned months after the Election Commission of India (EC) in August sent a report to governor Ramesh Bias ostensibly recommending Soren’s disqualification as a member of the assembly for allegedly holding a mining lease.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has argued that Soren violated the office of profit rules and sought his disqualification for “misusing” his official position to get the lease. Soren has rejected the allegation.

Soren’s lawyers countered the BJP’s contention before the ECI saying the mining lease was not executed and he sought cancellation of the consent to operate it in February, which means he did not get any benefit from the lease. Soren contended that Section 9A of the Representation of People’s Act that allows disqualification, was not applicable in his case as the lease is not a government contract.