The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea by former Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case.

However, the bench allowed the petitioner to amend his writ petition before the High Court.

Soren, who was arrested after resigning as the Jharkhand Chief minister, had first moved the state High Court challenging his arrest in the case. In the matter, a battery of senior lawyers led by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi changed their strategy and decided to move the Apex Court instead of pursuing their remedy before the Jharkhand High Court.

A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice MM Sundresh and Justice Bela M. Trivedi thus observed, “We are not inclined to entertain the present writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India and leave it open to the petition to approach the jurisdictional High Court under Article 226. We are informed that the petitioner has already preferred a writ petition under 226 before the High Court of Jharkhand which is still pending. The attention is also drawn to the records of proceedings…which was filed by the petitioner under Article 32 but was withdrawn with liberty to approach High Court with the same set of reliefs. Learned Senior counsels appearing for the petitioner states that they will have to amend the writ petition before the High Court. It will be open to the petitioner to amend the petition. It will also be open to the petitioner to ask for expeditions listing and disposal of the writ petition”.

At the outset, Justice Khanna said, "Mr Sibal, Why should you not go to the High Court and why come here directly?".

To which Sibal then said, "These kind of matters, unless your lordships entertain…going to the High Court has its consequences".

"Please don’t say that, we also have been High Court judges", retorted Justice Khanna.

"Here the Chief Minister has been arrested…for what milords, please see the evidences, it is unfair…”, Sibal argued.

"Mr Sibal, one, Courts are open to everybody. Two, High Court is a Constitutional Court. If we are going to permit somebody in one case to come here, we will have to permit him in all cases", Justice Khanna said in response.

To which then Sibal submitted that it is the discretion of the Supreme Court and that he will establish further why it should be exercised in the present case.

“Yes. It is our discretion…There is an earlier order of another bench to which my sister is a party in which it is said please approach the High Court”, said Justice Khanna.

The fact of the matter is that the High Court is a Constitutional Court…Please go to the High Court, we cannot entertain it…my brothers and sisters have been following it”, Justice Khanna added further.

“There is no necessity to arrest…then milords what are the discretions that this court will accept?”, asked Singhvi.

ASG Raju then commented on the conditions in jail, "...Like a Five-Star Hotel has been covered into jail".

When the Senior Counsels appearing for the petitioner attempted to intervene while the bench was dictating order, Justice Khanna said, "What I have to dictate in the order I will decide...We never control the High Courts like that. We always say expeditiously that is all." Pursuant to which, when ASG tried to oppose allowing the petitioner to amend the petition, Justice Khanna said, "You don’t have to oppose everything".

Yesterday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General SV Raju opposed the plea of Soren, saying the High Court is already scheduled to hear the petition today.

The ED is expected to produce Soren before a special PMLA court at Ranchi and the agency will seek his remand for custodial interrogation, the sources had said. The allegations of money laundering against the JMM leader pertain to the alleged illegal possession of certain immovable assets apart from his purported links with members of the 'land mafia'.

The investigation is linked to a "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, according to the central probe agency. The ED has so far arrested 14 people in the case, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan who served as the director of the state's Social Welfare Department and deputy commissioner of Ranchi.

The ED is probing the alleged "huge amounts of proceeds of crime generated by manipulation of official records by showing dummy sellers and purchasers in the guise of forged/ bogus documents to acquire huge parcels of land having value in crores". An ED team searched Soren's Delhi residence on Monday, and camped there for almost 13 hours in order to question him in the money laundering case.

Cause Title: Hemant Soren v Union of India and Ors.