HC directs Lokpal to respond to JMM’s challenge of CBI probe into party assets


PTI, May 10, 2024, 6:26 PM IST

The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the Lokpal’s response on a plea by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) challenging an order of the anti-corruption ombudsman directing the CBI to probe two party-owned properties.

The high court impleaded the Lokpal of India as a party to the matter after the counsel for BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who had filed the corruption complaint, submitted that his role ended after he made the complaint.

“Let a notice be issued to the Lokpal who shall file its reply to the petition. List the matter on July 20,” Justice Subramonium Prasad said Senior advocate Arunabh Chowdhury, appearing for the JMM, said he will file an amended memo of parties after making Lokpal a party to the petition.

The high court had earlier asked Dubey to file his reply to JMM’s petition challenging the Lokpal’s March 4 order directing the CBI to probe the two properties, owned by the Jharkhand’s ruling party. Dubey has claimed the two properties were benami properties owned by party president Shibu Soren.

Dubey’s counsel submitted since the Lok Sabha MP’s role ended with the filing of the complaint, the Lokpal should be made a party to the case.

“Why the author of the judgment be made a party? It was on your complaint that the Lokpal passed the order. If you will file an appeal challenging any of my orders, would you make Delhi High Court a party?” the court asked Dubey’s advocate.

On April 23, the high court had restrained the Lokpal from taking any further steps till May 10 following the filing of a CBI report on its investigation into the two properties.

JMM’s counsel had submitted that the two properties belong to the political party and not Soren and that passing such and order was beyond the Lok Pal’s jurisdiction as envisaged under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

The counsel had asserted that an inquiry under the statute can only be initiated against a person and not a political party, and since the CBI has already come to a conclusion in its earlier report that the properties belong to the JMM, the Lokpal’s order goes beyond the ambit of the Act. The anti-corruption ombudsman has, on Dubey’s complaint, directed the CBI to probe within six months the alleged benami properties linked to JMM chief Shibu Soren.

It passed the order while disposing of the August 5, 2020 complaint by Dubey, who represents Jharkhand’s Godda constituency in the Lok Sabha.

The JMM’s petition, filed in the high court through advocate Abhishek Roy, said the Lokpal’s order was ex-facie bad in law and without jurisdiction. The petition claimed the order was passed ”behind the back” of the JMM and no notice was issued to the party before it was passed.

In his complaint to the Lokpal, Dubey had alleged that Soren and his family members indulged in ”rampant corruption” and amassed huge wealth disproportionate to their known and declared sources of income by adopting ”unscrupulous and corrupt means”. Soren amassed these assets in his own name, the names of his family members, friends, associates and companies in various districts of Jharkhand, including Ranchi, Dhanbad and Dumka, the BJP leader claimed.

The Lokpal has also asked the CBI to keep it posted on the progress of its probe by sending monthly reports.

The Lokpal has acknowledged the two properties in question stood in the name of the JMM, a political party founded by Soren, a Rajya Sabha MP, and were purchased through him in 2014.

”The JMM is controlled and run by the RPS (respondent public servant, that is, Shibu Soren) and his family members, who wield enormous political clout,” it had said.

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