Supreme Court stays proceedings in PIL before Jharkhand High Court alleging money laundering by CM Hemant Soren

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Shiv Shankar Sharma, a PIL activist filed a PIL before the Jharkhand High Court leveling allegations against Chief Minister Hemant Soren of money laundering through several shell companies owned by him. The High Court held the PIL to be maintainable and the same has now been challenged before Supreme Court. 

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia today stayed the proceedings in the Public Interest Litigation filed against the Chief Minister of Jharkhand before the high court over the issue of money laundering.

Court further reserved the order in the plea by the Jharkhand government challenging the order of the High Court wherein it held the PIL maintainable. 

Appearing for the State of Jharkhand, Sr.Adv Kapil Sibal argued that the PILs have been filed in contradiction to the guidelines of the Supreme Court. He argued that the High Court decided on both maintainability and merits, while the Supreme Court had asked it to decide on maintainability alone.

Sibal submitted that the court heard the matter despite the PIL not meeting the guidelines. He said that the petitioner has not disclosed the background of the lawyer in the PIL. Sibal alleged that the petitioner's lawyer is notorious for filing PILs. He argued that there is no rationale behind the PIL while there is an intent. He told the court that this is not an isolated PIL but it is well planned.

Sibal argued that the petitioner has other remedies under the law, but has filed a PIL. He argued that the petitioner, instead of filing an FIR, moved the court.

He further argued that the high court heard the PIL in such a hurry that the hearings were held online by one of the judges of the division bench, even when he was not in the State. Sibal submitted that the PIL petitioner is a professional who exploits the situation by filing PILs. 

Mukul Rohatgi, Sr. Adv, appearing for Hemant Soren, argued that the PIL petitioner's father was a prosecution witness in connection with a murder case involving Sibu Soren. He recollected a speech by Justice (retd) Bhanumathi, former Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court, wherein she said that PILs are being misused in Jharkhand and there is a lawyer who appears only in PILs and earns crores of rupees.

Rohatgi argued that the Jharkhand High Court went to the extent of commenting on Sibal and him who appeared for the State and Soren respectively. He submitted that there are no credentials shown by the petitioners to the satisfaction of the court. 

ASG SV Raju, appearing for ED, submitted that PIL should not be thrown out on technical grounds if a case is being made out. He argued that the credentials of the petitioner are irrelevant when an offence is made out prima facie.

He submitted that if ED during the course of investigation comes across material pertaining to serious corruption, it cannot act on its own and requires a predicate offence. ASG submitted that as of today, the stage of registering FIRs has not arisen as it can happen only after initial investigations.

At this point, the bench told Raju that ED's hands are not tied when it comes to an investigation against former mining secretary Pooja Singhal.

The ASG further submitted that there has been some tampering in the case and there is also an intent to cover up the acts. He informed the court that the state officers are hand in glove with the government. 

The bench questioned the ASG as to why a report was shown to the high court in a sealed cover in the earlier hearings. The ASG replied to this saying that the accused may tamper with the evidence. The court opined that it is all the more reason that the sealed cover reports must not have been shown to the court.

Moreover, the counsel for the petitioner submitted that he requires protection as there is a threat to his physical self, after filing the PIL. The court asked the State of Jharkhand to look into the same. 


The Special Leave Petition has been filed by the State Government against the High Court order which accepted the maintainability of the PIL petition filed against the Chief Minister raising the issue of money laundering through several shell companies owned by Soren. 

The High Court bench of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad had noted that the PIL is maintainable.

The High Court order was passed after the direction of the Apex Court, wherein a bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Bela M Trivedi had directed the High Court of Jharkhand to consider the issue of maintainability first. The order was passed in an application filed by the Government challenging the PIL filed by one Shiv Shankar Sharma against the alleged shell companies owned by Chief Minister Hemant Soren on the ground of maintainability of the plea.

Case title: Shiv Shankar Sharma Vs State of Jharkhand