What has happened?
- In a setback for the JMM-led Jharkhand regime, the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday recommended the disqualification of Chief Minister Hemant Soren as MLA under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- Sources said the Commission, in its opinion shared with Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais, found Soren guilty of misusing his position to allot a stone mining lease to himself last year.
- The Chief Minister also heads the state’s mining department.
Allegations against CM Soren
- The BJP accused Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren of allocating a mining lease to himself, his political advisor Pankaj Mishra and press advisor Abhishek Prasad, while holding charge of the state mining department.
- The BJP alleged that Soren, while heading the mining department, allotted a stone chips mining lease to himself in 2021 flouting office of profit norms.
- BJP national vice president and former Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das has further alleged that 11 acres of land was allotted to Kalpana Soren – the chief minister’s wife –
- In Ranchi’s Bijupara industrial area by the industries department which is also under the chief minister.
- The BJP made a representation to the governor who forwarded it to the Election Commission under Article 192 of the Constitution.
- Article 192 authorises the governor to decide on disqualifying an elected member of the state assembly on the poll panel’s opinion.
- The poll body had written to Jharkhand government, seeking documents pertaining to the mining lease granted to the chief minister.
- The Jharkhand high court had also issued a notice to the chief minister after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed against him.
EC to Hemant Soren
- The Election Commission of India has sent a notice to Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren asking him to explain, Why action should not be taken against him for having a mine lease issued in his favour.
- The poll body has said that this prima facie violates section 9A of the Representation of People’s Act, which deals with disqualification for government contracts.
Section 9A of RPA
- “A person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate government,
- For the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that government,” reads the section.
- Under Article 191 of the Constitution, a member of a state legislative assembly can be disqualified under five provisions:
- Holding any office of profit, being of unsound mind, being insolvent, giving up citizenship of India or applying for the citizenship of a foreign country, or in accordance with a parliamentary statute.
What JMM is saying?
- “The allegations brought by the BJP will not stand in a court of law.
- They are accusing the chief minister of violating section 9A of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, as he issued an order allotting a mine to his company,” Supriya Bhattacharya, general secretary of the JMM.
- “But it was an administrative error, and the chief minister corrected it when it was brought to his attention. He even surrendered the mine lease. So where does the case stand,” he added.
BJP eyes lost ground
- Having lost the support of tribal communities in the last assembly elections, the BJP sees this as an opportunity to regain lost ground in Jharkhand’s tribal belt.
- The JMM-Congress combine had won 25 of the 28 seats in this belt in 2019, while the BJP could only manage to stake claim to two seats.
- The JMM has 30, Congress 19 and the BJP 26 MLAs in Jharkhand’s 81-member legislature.
- The Governor, who had referred the matter to the EC after receiving a complaint from the Opposition BJP, is yet to officially communicate his order on the issue.
- Soren was elected from Barhait and Dumka in the 2019 state elections.
- He later gave up the Dumka seat after which his brother Basant Soren got elected from the constituency in a bypoll.
- After the Governor notifies the disqualification order on a gazette, Mr Soren will have to resign.
- His cabinet will also have to resign too.
- However, he can get re-elected in a by-election that has to be held within six months.
Q) Who determines the salary and allowances of the Chief Minister?
- State Legislature