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Judiciary

JMM Chief Shibu Soren loses Delhi HC appeal against disproportionate assets case before Lokpal [Read Judgment]

By Shreya Agarwal      23 February, 2024 02:30 PM      0 Comments
JMM Chief Shibu Soren loses Delhi HC appeal against disproportionate assets case before Lokpal

NEW DELHI: A division bench of the Delhi High Court has rejected Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chief Shibu Soren's appeal against a single judge bench's order refusing to quash a disproportionate assets complaint against him before the Lokpal of India.

Soren had preferred an appeal against a single judge bench’s order refusing to interfere with proceedings initiated against him by the Lokpal of India on a disproportionate assets complaint made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Dr. Nishikant Dubey in 2020.

A division bench of Justice Rekha Palli and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar held that it finds “absolutely no reason to interfere with the impugned order, holding that the writ petition filed by the appellant was premature. The appeal being meritless is, accordingly, dismissed with all accompanying applications.”

The bench concurred with the single judge bench’s order that “a final decision under Section 20(3) is yet to be taken” by the Lokpal and it is “yet to decide whether a prima facie case exists for directing investigation by any agency” against Soren.

The decision will be taken after granting an opportunity of hearing to Soren, as envisaged under Section 20(3) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, it said.

The Court also rejected Soren’s argument that the complaint ought to have been dismissed in limine as it was barred by limitation.

It held in this regard that, it is evident that the complaint pertains not only to purchase of properties, which Soren claimed were purchased more than 7 years ago, but also pertains to ongoing incidents of amassing wealth by misuse of power by him.

Soren was represented by Sr. Adv. Kapil Sibal, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Lokpal.

Earlier

A single judge bench of the Delhi High Court had refused to entertain a petition by Rajya Sabha MP and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha President Shibu Soren wherein he sought quashing of a disproportionate assets complaint filed against him with the Lokpal of India.

The Court had held that it "does not want to enter into this realm at this juncture and it is for the Lokpal to take a decision as to whether there is sufficient material to proceed further for investigation or not."

The complaint alleged that Soren in his name and in the name of his family members including sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, friends, associates and various companies etc. has acquired about 80 immovable properties including plots of lands (residential, commercial and built up properties) in various districts of Jharkhand such as Ranchi, Dhanbad, Dumka etc.

Inter alia Dubey alleged that Soren has acquired properties completely disproportionate to his known sources of income and has been indulging in corrupt practices for many years and has illegally usurped huge portions of the lands belonging to poor tribals of the Santhal tribe at throwaway prices much below the prevailing circle rates.

Soren challenged the complaint and various orders passed therein primarily contending that the complaint itself ought not to have been entertained by the Lokpal since it is hit by Section 53 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

He also contended that the time limit mentioned in the Act has not been complied with in the enquiry process.

The Court noted that it was only to decide whether while exercising its discretion under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the report is considered by the Lokpal, the Court should dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is hit by Section 53 of the Act or not, or whether all the contentions raised before this Court should be advanced before the Lokpal in the inquiry to be held under Section 20(3) of the Act or not.

It reasoned that the whole purpose of the Act is to ensure purity in public service.

“In the process of statutory construction, the court must construe the Act before it and the attempt should always be to further the approach of the Act and to make it workable,” it wrote.

The single judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad reasoned, “The Lokpal is yet to apply its mind on the material provided by the CBI as to whether an investigation is necessary or not. It is well settled that while conducting an inquiry, the material that can be unearthed is limited compared to the material that is unearthed when an investigation is conducted by a competent authority.”

“It is well settled that writ courts while exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India do not interfere if the matter is pending adjudication before an authority unless it is a case of patent lack of jurisdiction or where the nature of inquiry is for allegations which are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can reach a just conclusion or where the proceedings have been initiated are so manifestly attended with malice or the proceedings are initiated with the intention of wrecking vengeance on a person with a view to spite him due to any political or oblique motives,” the bench added.

The Court had then went on to reject Soren’s contention that the entire complaint is completely motivated and Lokpal would invariably order for investigation.

Stating that, “the Office of Lokpal is completely independent and an argument that the Lokpal would be influenced by political consideration cannot be countenanced. This allegation that the proceedings before the Lokpal is vitiated and can be politically motivated, cannot be accepted,” the Court had disposed of Soren’s plea.

 

[Read Judgment]

 

Also Read: Delhi HC reserves order on JMM Chief Shibu Soren’s appeal against disproportionate assets case before Lokpal



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