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Soren is killer of secretary
Quits Cabinet; in AIIMS
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Union coal minister Shibu Soren arrives at the Tees Hazari Court for the hearing on the case of his secretary's murder in 1994, in New Delhi
Union coal minister Shibu Soren arrives at the Tees Hazari Court for the hearing on the case of his secretary's murder in 1994, in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, November 28
Union Coal Minister Shibu Soren resigned late tonight, hours after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought his resignation following his conviction in the case of murder of his secretary Shashi Nath Jha in 1994.

“The Prime Minister has accepted Soren’s resignation,” PM’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru said. Later, Soren complained of chest pain and was admitted to the Cardiology Department of All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here around 10.30 pm.

Mr Soren was immediately taken into judicial custody after the guilty verdict. He was present in the court when the verdict was delivered. A city court today pronounced Mr Soren guilty of conspiracy in the kidnap and murder of Shashi Nath Jha 12 years ago.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Mr Soren to resign from the Union Cabinet.

Additional Sessions Judge B. R. Kedia found Mr Soren, who is also the chief of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, guilty of kidnapping and hatching the conspiracy to kill his secretary.

The court fixed November 30 for hearing the arguments on the quantum of sentence.

Soren's continuation in the Union Cabinet or his brief interlude as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand has remained a tenuous affair all along, primarily because of various cases registered against him and his being unable to rummage majority in the Assembly of his home state. His conviction in the murder case has the portends of pushing him into political oblivion. Though Additional Sessions Judge B.R. Kedia will pronounce the judgement tomorrow, the CBI took Soren into custody immediately.

Meanwhile, the developments connected with Soren provided yet another lever to the Opposition to launch a frontal attack on the government on the ground that the Prime Minister should never have inducted the JMM leader in the Cabinet keeping in view his background.

The issue was raised in Parliament in the afternoon and there was a studied silence from the Treasury benches.

Outside in the precincts of Parliament House, BJP leader and former Union Minister Arun Jaitley said though it was a prerogative of the Prime Minister to induct a person of his choice in the Union Council of Ministers, there was no room for criminals in the Cabinet.

He said the Prime Minister must have definitely been aware of Soren's background. "Ever since this (the UPA) government came to power, it has been known for criminalisation of politics," he added.

Earlier, S.S. Ahluwalia of the BJP raised the Soren issue in the Rajya Sabha.

Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress told mediapersons that the Manmohan Singh government should sack Soren without wasting a minute. The Prime Minister should have the courage of steering clear of inducting criminals in the Cabinet.

With the critical issue of arithmetic coming into play in the prevailing coalition environment, Soren has been in and out of the Manmohan Singh government. He quit the Cabinet in July, 2004, after a Jharkhand court issued a non-bailable warrant against him for his alleged involvement in a case of mass murder around 20 years back. He was granted bail after spending more than a month in judicial custody. He was re-inducted into the Union Cabinet five months later in November, 2004.

Soren resigned from the government in March, 2005, to become the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. It was a short-lived affair lasting just nine days as he failed to secure a vote of confidence. He was re-inducted into the Union Cabinet in January this year.

The abduction-cum-murder case was registered in June, 1994, on a complaint by Amar Nath Jha, elder brother of the deceased.

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