News Brief

Amid CM Soren Skipping Seven ED Summons, Jharkhand's New SOPs For Officials Set To Challenge Central Agencies

Kuldeep Negi

Jan 10, 2024, 01:45 PM | Updated 01:45 PM IST

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren.

The Jharkhand Government has reportedly instructed all the department to avoid answering any queries by the central agencies or handing over any documents to them directly.

This comes in the backdrop of State Chief Minister Hemant Soren skipping seven summons by the Enforcement Directorate and several state government officials are under the central agencies' scanner.

The departments have been asked to report all queries to the Cabinet Secretariat or the Vigilance Department for processing, NDTV reported.

The guidelines stipulate that any official who receives a notice or summons from an external probe agency must immediately inform their department head.

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The head of the department will pass on the information to the nodal agency. 

Following this, the Department of Cabinet Secretariat and Vigilance will then take legal advice and then share the information with the agencies accordingly. 

This new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was established in response to instances where officials were handing over government documents or records to agencies without informing their senior officers or department heads, disrupting government work.

The information provided is likely to be incomplete or inaccurate, and potentially leading to confusion and adversely affecting the state government as well as central investigating agencies.

In a confidential letter written to all departments on Tuesday, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Vandana Dadel said that officials should not respond directly to notices and requests for documents related to any investigation by central agencies, and inform the Cabinet Secretariat and Vigilance Department instead. 

In the letter, Dadel said the state government has its own Anti-Corruption Bureau which reports to the department. 

Therefore, the letter states, the Cabinet Secretariat and Vigilance Department is being made the nodal department for sharing information with the central agencies to avoid confusion and ensure proper cooperation with them. 

While the Jharkhand government has said that it is streamlining the process to ensure cooperation and that the incomplete information is not handed over to them, experts see the move as a way of making it more difficult for central agencies to get information from the state.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which runs a coalition government in the state with the Congress as the other major partner, is a member of the INDI alliance at the Centre.

The Enforcement Directorate has issued seven summons to CM Soren in a money laundering case linked to allegations of corruption and illegal change of land ownership by the mafia. 

The ED has also summoned Soren's press adviser Abhishek Prasad and Sahibganj Deputy Commissioner Ram Niwas Yadav for questioning in a money laundering case linked to alleged illegal mining in the state.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which runs a coalition government in the state with the Congress as the other major partner, is a member of the INDI alliance at the Centre.

Several members of the Opposition bloc, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - in whose state an Enforcement Directorate team was attacked on 5 January - have been lashing out at the BJP government at the Centre for allegedly misusing central agencies in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.

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Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.


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