The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recommended that Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren be disqualified as an MLA, sources in the Raj Bhavan said. The ECI has written back to Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais who had sought its opinion over a complaint received by the opposition BJP that the chief minister must be qualified as he allegedly holds an office-of-profit by getting a stone chips mining lease in his name.
The ECI has summoned Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLAs and asked them to reach Ranchi by evening. There are no details of the opinion rendered to the governor in a sealed cover this morning, as of now, say the sources.
Jharkhand Governor Bais, who was in Delhi since 22 August on a personal visit, returned to Ranchi today.
Earlier in the day, the ED arrested Prem Prakash, an alleged close aide of Hemant Soren, a day after recovering 2 AK-47 rifles from his residence. Prem Prakash was arrested on Wednesday night after search operations in connection with the alleged illegal mining case. He was arrested from Ranchi under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act.
Yesterday, the ED raided multiple locations in Jharkhand as part of an ongoing money-laundering investigation into alleged illegal mining in the state.
Transgressions of Jharkhand CM
Sources said that the ECI found Hemant Soren to be violating the office of profit clause in the law. The Jharkhand chief minister violated 9A of the 1951 People Representative Act, sources said.
The ECI had heard both Hemant Soren and his brother Basant Soren during the hearing which was completed on August 18. The ECI has recommended disqualification and the final decision will come from the governor.
The ECI's case involves Hemant Soren awarding himself a mining lease. The BJP had sought his disqualification as an MLA, alleging this was corruption.
Under Article 192 of the Constitution of India, if any question arises as to whether a member of a House of the Legislature of a state has become subject to any of the disqualifications, the final decision will be taken by the governor.
Hemant Soren was accused of getting a mining license allotted in his name and in his brother’s name while holding the post of Jharkhand chief minister.
During the same time, he was also holding the position of mining ministry. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested then mining secretary, Pooja Singhal, who approved the mining license, in a money laundering case. The ED has arrested four accused in this case so far.
The opposition party BJP said the Jharkhand assembly should be dissolved and there should be elections in all 81 assembly constituencies.
"Hemant Soren should head towards mid-term polls, on moral grounds. The Assembly should be dissolved and there should be elections in all 81 Assembly constituencies. BJP has been demanding this," BJP MP Nishikant Dubey was quoted by ANI as saying.
Nishikant Dubey hit out at Hemant Soren and said, "Jharkhand chief minister granted mining licenses for himself. There can be no bigger corruption than this. What ECI has done (reported disqualification) is a lesson for all politicians."
"BJP wants elections. We want to go to the people. Do we go around planting AK 47s? We planted money on Pooja Singhal’s CA too?” Hemant Soren can even make Prem Prakash chief minister who was found with AK 47s," he said.
"All the journalists have told me that he (Jharkhand chief minister) has lost his membership. That had been recommended to the Governor by the ECI. As a BJP worker, it's a matter of joy because it's the BJP that had complained to the Governor. It is the day to celebrate," Nishikant Dubey said.
What Hemant Soren pleads
"The chief minister is apprised of several media reports about ECI sending a report to Jharkhand governor "apparently recommending his disqualification as an MLA".No communication in this regard has been received by the CMO from either the ECI or governor," Jharkhand chief minister said in a statement.
The chief minister's office said, "It seems BJP leaders, including a BJP MP and his puppet journalists themselves, drafted the ECI report, which is otherwise sealed. Blatant misuse of constitutional authorities and public agencies and its takeover by BJP HQ in a shameful manner is unseen in Indian Democracy."