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Business News/ Politics / Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren, the two CMs under ED scanner: Can they be arrested?
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Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren, the two CMs under ED scanner: Can they be arrested?

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal skipped three summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with excise policy case. Meanwhile, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren skipped seven summons by the ED in a different case.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (L), Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren (R)Premium
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (L), Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren (R)

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Jharkhand counterpart Hemant Soren are the two CMs who currently under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over money laundering cases. They both have skipped summons by the financial probe agencies and are in a close radar of the financial prove agency. Speculations are rife that these two chief ministers may get arrested.

But can they be arrested being the chief ministers of the state? And what are the cases against them? Let take a deep dive into the matter:

Arvind Kejriwal's case

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was summoned by the ED thrice — on January 3, November 2 and December 21. He skipped them all, calling them "illegal" and "politically motivated". The financial probe agency had called him to record his statement in connection with an excise policy-linked money laundering case.

The summons to Kejriwal were issued after the Supreme Court had asked the ED in October 2023 to explain why the political party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was allegedly the beneficiary of the Delhi Excise Policy 'scam', has not been made an accused in the money laundering case.

Kejriwal's party colleagues Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are already in judicial custody in connections the same case.

ALSO READ: 'Law will decide if Arvind Kejriwal can..': BJP Delhi chief hits out at CM over ED summons in excise case

Meanwhile, the ED had earlier claimed the AAP used 100 crore received as kickback from various stakeholders for its campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly elections.

It has been alleged that the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders allowed cartelisation and favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge repeatedly refuted by the AAP. 

The policy was subsequently scrapped and the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe, following which the ED registered a case under the PMLA.

Hemant Soren's case

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is also under the ED scanner over a host of cases. Some of them include a "land scam case" and a corruption case involving an office of profit case. According to reports, he is also under the scanner in connection with the allegations of a Maoist about the protection money his gang paid to individuals close to the CM.

On January 3, the ED conducted raids against Soren's associates in connection with an illegal mining and money laundering cases. According to ANI sources, searches were conducted at over 10 locations, including the residences of Abhishek Prasad, press advisor to Hemant Soren, and Rajendra Dubey, DSP Hazaribag.

Following this, speculations were rife that the Jharkhand Chief Minister may be out of power in view of the ongoing ED raids.

Earlier, the ED had issued fresh summons to Hemant Soren for questioning in connection with an alleged land scam. This was the seventh summons issued to Soren by the ED under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, asking him to appear before the agency and record his statement in connection with the alleged scam.

ALSO READ: Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren says there is ‘artificial tornado’ in the state. Here's why

Like Kejriwal, Soren also skipped all the seven summons, accusing the BJP-led Centre of using central agencies to destabilise his democratically elected government. According to the Hindustan Times, the ED said it was the last opportunity provided to Hemant Soren.

Besides, the Election Commission had sent a letter to the then governor of Jharkhand Ramesh Bais in August 2022 which is believed to have recommended his disqualification as an MLA as a mining lease given to him was renewed during his tenure as the state’s chief minister, PTI reported.

Can Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren be arrested?

Speculation are rife that both these CMs may get arrested. But, these are just mere speculations. Kejriwal's AAP had recently launched door-to-door campaign to find answer to the question: "Should Arvind Kejriwal resign or should he work from jail if get arrested?"

Meanwhile, the Times of India had reported on December 14, 2023 that the ED may be considering the arrest of Soren for no-show after six summons. The reports cited Soren as saying that his questioning is crucial for the probe and emphaised that his appeals against the summons were turned down by the high court and the Supreme Courts.

What law says on arrests of CMs?

In the eyes of the law, every Indian citizen is an common person. Chief ministers are not any immunity from arrest during their time in office.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC), the law enforcement agency can arrest any person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued by the court, the Financial Express reported.

A a chief minister can only be arrested if there is enough reason to believe that the accused would abscond, will try to destroy evidence, or act in a way so as to avoid the legal process, the report said.

Moreover, a chief minister could be removed from office only when he is convicted in a case. The CM is not legally prohibited from holding office while under investigation.

As per the law, only the President of India and governors of states are given protection from arrest in both civil and criminal cases while in office.

Article 361 in The Constitution Of India 1949 says, "No process for the arrest or imprisonment of the President, or the Governor of a State, shall issue from any court during his term of office."

Also, the Supreme Court had earlier said in an order that while considering prosecution against cabinet members and the chief minister, the governor can act independently without the recommendation of the council of ministers.

"...it was rightly thought that in deciding to sanction or not to sanction the prosecution of a Chief Minister, the Governor would act in the exercise of his discretion and not with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers," a Supreme Court order in 2004 had said.

However, according to Jagran, "if the chief minister or an Assembly member has to be arrested even in a criminal case, then first of all, the approval has to be taken from the Speaker of the House. The arrest can be made only after the approval of the Assembly Speaker."

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 04 Jan 2024, 07:07 AM IST
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