Four PMLA cases against Jharkhand BJP chief Babulal Marandi, no ED summons

In the course of a conversation with Hemant Soren, sent to jail on Thursday for a day by a special court, Kapil Sibal questions the role of the ED

Screengrab from video
Screengrab from video
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A.J. Prabal

Senior Supreme Court lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal has revealed the existence of not one but four cases under the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering) Act against former Jharkhand chief minister and current state BJP president Babulal Marandi.

Sibal has also confessed to being "surprised" to find that there are at least four more MLAs against whom similar charges are pending, but ED (Enforcement Directorate) summons were issued only to former CM Hemant Soren, arrested by the ED on Thursday.

Marandi, the first chief minister of Jharkhand in 2000, left the BJP in 2005 and formed the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P). He rejoined the BJP in 2020 after JVM failed to make much of a dent in the state, with just three MLAs in the assembly. In July 2023, Marandi was made state president of the BJP in the hope of strengthening the party's base among tribal communities. In the last election in 2020, BJP won just two of the 28 seats reserved for SC-STs in the state.

In a 39-minute chat with Soren, recorded by all indications in the National Capital Territory before Soren submitted his resignation to the Jharkhand governor on Thursday, Sibal asks why the ED is so enamoured of him and why he has been at the receiving end of summons.     

Soren politely avoids answering the question, but denies all allegations of wrongdoing against him. He does, however, recall that the ED team had asked him to explain two heavy transactions (bhari rakam) from his bank account.

“I was startled and inquired what the amounts were in the transactions referred to by the ED team. They looked at their records and said the two transactions amounted to Rs 31 lakh in one case and Rs 70 lakh in another,” Soren remembers being told.

He was both mystified and anxious because he thought the transactions would run into hundreds of crores of rupees, Soren jokes, and tells Sibal that he told the ED team that the amounts transacted were from his bank account, and the bank and the government knew very well where the money had come from. How would the ED have come across the transactions had he not deposited the amount in his accounts, he exclaims.

Conceding that he had indeed refused to respond to as many as seven summons issued by the ED, Soren says he did so because the summons did not mention what the ED wanted to question him about. The central agency was simply ordering him to appear before it, and he refused to comply until the ED mentioned what it wanted to know. Once the agency did that, Soren says, he immediately agreed to answer the questions.

Babulal Marandi (photo: @yourBabulal/X)
Babulal Marandi (photo: @yourBabulal/X)

“My father has been a member either of the Assembly or of Parliament since 1977; my late elder brother was also a legislator, and I have been chief minister for the past four years. I was also briefly the deputy chief minister in the Arjun Munda government. And yet, the ED seems surprised that I could make transactions worth Rs 70 lakh,” he says.

Sibal also reveals that though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had given a clean chit to Soren’s father, former chief minister Shibu Soren, and mentioned that no case was made out under the Lokpal Act, the Lokpal had still sent a notice to him.

You can watch the entire conversation uploaded by Kapil Sibal here

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