It further said it was established to look into allegations of corruption against public functionaries following India’s commitment to the policy of “zero corruption” and a “complaint need not be rejected at the threshold”.
The Lokpal’s stand came on a reply filed by it on Soren’s petition, assailing Dubey’s complaint as well as the anti-corruption authority’s proceedings against him.
On September 12, the court had stayed the Lokpal proceedings against the former Jharkhand chief minister while opining that the matter required consideration.
In a separate reply filed in relation to the vacation of the stay order, the Lokpal said the continuation of the interim relief would prejudice it and negatively impact the legislative intent behind the Lokpal Act.
In the complaint made in August 2020, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Dubey had claimed that Soren (75) and his family members “acquired huge wealth and properties by misusing the public exchequer and grossly indulging in corruption”.
Justice Yashwant Varma listed the case for further consideration on November 28.
The Lokpal, in its reply to the petition, emphasised that its proceedings are not vitiated by illegalities and there has neither been any abuse of the process of law nor any violation of the petitioner’s fundamental rights.
“Given the nature of the allegations in the present case, a preliminary inquiry was the proper course of action, including to ascertain whether the petitioner and his family actually hold the properties mentioned in the complaint (in fact, in this case, the CBI identified more properties than were mentioned in the complaint), the date when they were acquired and the sources of acquisition of such properties (as the offence of disproportionality can occur on a date later than the date of acquisition).
“Thus, a complaint need not be rejected at the threshold merely on the basis of the dates or events described in it,” the counter-affidavit filed by the Lokpal deputy registrar said.
Soren has claimed in his petition that the Lokpal could not have acted on the allegations made seven years after the alleged offence and it has wrongly granted extensions to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to submit its preliminary report on the complaint.
He has also assailed the August 4 Lokpal order on initiation of proceedings to determine whether a prima facie case exists to proceed against him, claiming that it was passed without considering his preliminary objection on jurisdiction.
In its reply, the Lokpal said it was “fully justified in granting extensions from time to time to the CBI after reviewing the status of the preliminary inquiry and taking into account the totality of the circumstances”, and the order for further proceedings was passed after duly considering the material on record.
“The Lokpal of India duly considered the complaint, the petitioner’s responses or comments thereto, the inquiry reports submitted by the CBI as well as other material on record before passing the order dated 04.08.2022 to initiate proceedings….
“Accordingly, an opportunity of hearing has been given to the public servant concerned before a decision is made as to whether there exists a prima facie case against him. As such, the matter is still open to adjudication, including on the issue of limitation, and no final view has been formed,” the reply said as it sought the dismissal of the “misconceived” plea.
The reply informed that the “process of inquiry in this case involved the collection and verification of information and documents from multiple locations and from different authorities” and the petitioner “himself sought more time to submit his response or comments, which were granted to him in the interest of justice”, but the “petitioner’s family members did not respond and some also objected to the authority of the CBI to seek their reply”.
“As such, the Lokpal of India was fully justified in granting extensions from time to time to the CBI after reviewing the status of the preliminary inquiry and taking into account the totality of the circumstances,” the counter-affidavit said.
“However, the petitioner, who has never appeared before the Lokpal of India either in person or through counsel, has preferred to file the writ petition, which is devoid of merit and is misconceived,” it added.
The reply also informed that the matter has been adjourned by the Lokpal till further orders from the high court.
On October 7, the court had asked Soren and the Lokpal to file their responses to a plea moved by Dubey, seeking to vacate its earlier order staying the proceedings initiated by the anti-corruption authority against the JMM leader.
In his petition filed through lawyers Pallavi Langar and Vaibhav Tomar, Soren has said the corruption complaint was “motivated by political vendetta”. PTI ADS RC