The Supreme Court Friday took exception to periodical extension to Karnal Singh, Special Director in the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and directed the government to appoint a “regular head” as soon as possible.
The Cabinet’s Appointments Committee had last month given a third extension to the 1984-batch UT cadre IPS officer, who also holds additional charge as the agency’s chief, for another six months. According to the notification, Singh will continue to hold the additional charge as ED Director for a further period of six months beyond August 19, or till the appointment of a regular incumbent.
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A PIL was filed by one Uday Babu Khalwadekar seeking quashing of ad hoc appointment and subsequent extensions to Singh, allegedly in contravention of the Central Vigilance Act which provides for a mechanism for appointment of the ED chief and a fixed tenure to ensure his independence.
Finding favour with the contentions in the PIL, a bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur questioned the government’s counsel about the difficulties in getting a regular person to head the premier investigating agency.
“Why don’t you appoint a regular person? Why this ad hoc business? If you can appoint a person on ad hoc basis repeatedly, you can also appoint someone on a regular basis. This
ad hoc business must go,” the bench told senior advocate V Mohana, who appeared for the government.
Mohana replied that she would need some time to come back to the court with instructions as to when the process for regular appointment would begin. At this, the bench said: “We are not interested in who you appoint. But you must appoint a regular person. Make some arrangement so that you don’t do this the next time. Start your process well in advance.”
The court order stated: “Ms V Mohana, learned senior counsel, who appears for respondents Nos 1 to 3 (government and ED) prays for and is granted four weeks’ time to take instructions in the matter and to indicate a time-frame within which the Government shall appoint a regular head of the Enforcement Directorate. Post in the third week of November 2016.”
The PIL had based its case on Section 25 of the CVC Act, which read: “A Director of Enforcement shall continue to hold office for a period of not less than two years from the date on which he assumes office.”
Khalwadekar alleged that the appointing authority has completely flouted the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the CVC Act and has made ad hoc appointments or extensions since January 2015 to avoid appointing a full-time director so that the ad hoc appointee is at the beck and call of the government.