Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, acting on the basis of a two-year-old PIL filed in the Jharkhand High Court, has ordered the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate assets held by five ministers in the previous Raghubar Das-led government (2014-2019) of the BJP, The Print reports.
In an official release on May 31, the Jharkhand government said CM Soren had ordered an inquiry against Amar Kumar Bauri, Neera Yadav, Neelkanth Singh Munda, Randhir Singh and Louis Marandi, who were all ministers in the Raghubar Das government.
The official release said the action was ordered on the basis of a PIL filed by former journalist and RTI activist Pankaj Yadav that alleged these ministers owned disproportionate assets.
Political malice, say BJP leaders
Former CM Das as well as the leaders named in the PIL have denied the allegations, and accused the Soren government of “political malice”.
The move comes at a time when Soren is facing heat from the opposition in an alleged mining scam worth Rs 150 crore. Soren, president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), is also embroiled in an ‘office-of-profit’ controversy over allegedly issuing a mining licence to himself last year — which the JMM defends as “an administrative error” that was eventually corrected.
An ACB official told The Print: “The file related to these investigations (ordered by the CM) has not reached us yet. So, it would not be possible to say anything on this issue.” He added that “After the CM’s order, the matter will go to the Cabinet’s Monitoring Committee. Once the committee gives its approval, the file will reach the ACB. The bureau will then begin a preliminary probe into the matter.”
PIL by RTI activist
In 2020, activist Yadav had filed the PIL in the Jharkhand High Court seeking an investigation into properties held by five ministers in the Das government. In the petition, he requested that the matter be investigated by the ACB, and included as parties the departments headed by the five ministers — education, sports, land revenue, tourism, agriculture and cooperation, women and child development, and social welfare — as well as the ACB and Income Tax Office.
The PIL said there had been a 200-1,100 per cent increase in the assets of all these former ministers. However, all this information was submitted by these leaders on their own while filing affidavits during election time.
A similar case of disproportionate assets was registered against Bandhu Tirkey, who was education minister in the Madhu Koda-led government in Jharkhand (2006-2008). Investigations revealed a 126 per cent increase in his assets. In March, he was convicted, a judgment that led to his disqualification as an MLA, The Print report says.