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EC seeks from Jharkhand govt documents on mining lease granted to CM Soren

India News

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has written to Jharkhand government, seeking documents pertaining to a mining lease granted to Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who also holds the mining portfolio, to “formulate its opinion” under Article 192 of the Constitution, which deals with disqualification of members of Assembly.

In its April 8 letter to Jharkhand Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh, the ECI asked for copy of the application, lease deed, minor mineral concession rules, lease agreement and all annexures to the documents.

When contacted, Singh refused to comment on the matter.

The letter comes two months days after senior BJP leader and former chief minister Raghubar Das released at a press conference documents to show that Soren obtained a lease of 0.88 acre in Angara block of Ranchi and a Letter of Intent was issued by Ranchi’s District Mining Office on June 16, 2021.

The documents also stated that on September 9 Soren applied for environmental clearance for the mine, and obtained it from State Environment Impact Assessment Authority on September 18. Incidentally, Soren also holds the Environment and Forests department.

The matter is also being heard in the High Court, where a petition has been filed. During a hearing on April 8, the day the poll panel wrote to the state government, Advocate General Rajiv Ranjan said the state had committed “a mistake” and the lease has since been surrendered. However, the court had asked for a detailed affidavit.

In its letter to the Chief Secretary, which was received on April 18, the ECI said, “…that the Commission requires the following documents to formulate its opinion for the purpose of Article 192 of the Constitution in respect of lease granted to him towards khata number… and plot number… of 0.88 acre land.”

Article 192 deals with “decision on questions” related to disqualification of Assembly members and operates only when the Governor seeks opinion from the poll panel with respect to Article 191, which states the ground for disqualification such as for holding office for profit, being in a unsound mind, under 10th Schedule, or under any law of Parliament.

“Before giving any decision on any such question, the Governor shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion,” Article 192 says.

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