SC notice to CBI on Jharkhand govt. plea in Sahibganj illegal mining case

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By Mahtab Ahmad

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.
| Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on May 3 allowed CBI investigation into allegations of illegal mining in Sahibganj district of Jharkhand by Pankaj Mishra, a “close associate” of former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, and others to continue.

However, a Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the chargesheet, if any, should be retained in a sealed cover till the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court on July 18.

The apex court issued notice to the CBI and complainant, Bijay Hansda, on the petition filed by the Jharkhand government.

The State government, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Jayant Mohan, had assailed a High Court order of February 23, 2024 which allowed CBI to register an FIR in the illegal mining case.

The State said the High Court, on February 23, erroneously interpreted an August 18, 2023 order of a coordinate Bench, which had directed the CBI to only conduct a.”preliminary enquiry into the conduct of the accused persons,including the petitioner (Bijay Hansda) as he has sought to withdraw the writ petition”.

The State argued that the August 18 order had not directed the CBI to go ahead and investigate and register an FIR. In fact, the State argued, the High Court had sought a preliminary enquiry into allegations on August 18 as it had been unclear whether the case was exceptional to even warrant a transfer to the CBI.

Besides, the Jharkhand government argued that registration of an FIR by CBI would require mandatory and prior consent from the State under Section 6 of the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act. The government said the State Police had separately investigated the allegations and filed a closure report in the trial court in October 2023.

The State government submitted “the preliminary enquiry itself has now shown that the case does not fall in the category of the rarest of rare”.

Trouble had started when Mr. Hansda, filed a complaint alleging that stone mafias” were “illegal mining” with the connivance with government officials.

The February 23 order of the High Court narrated that CBI had lodged an FIR based on Mr. Hansda’s complaint alleging that Bishnu Prasad Yadav, Pavitra Kumar Yadav, Rajesh Yadav, Sanjay Yadav, Bacha Yadav, Sudhesh Mandal and Pankaj Mishra were engaged in a “large scale mining scam” at Nimbu Pahar in Sahibganj.

It was alleged that the accused were close associates of Mr. Soren. Mr. Hansda, the High Court said, claimed that he tried to stop the illegal mining with the help of the local villagers on May 5, 2022. However, they were assaulted by the bodyguards of the accused persons.

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