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Friday, Oct 07, 2022

ED chief’s tenure extension challenged, SC notice to Centre, CVC

The petitions challenge the amendments made by the government to the CVC Act, 2003, through an ordinance on November 14, 2021, giving itself the power to extend the tenure of the ED director by up to five years.

Mishra, who was Principal Special Director in ED, was appointed the agency's director on November 19, 2018, for a two-year period. (File)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice on a batch of petitions challenging the extension given to Enforcement Directorate (ED) director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.

A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli issued the notice to the Centre and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on petitions filed by Congress leaders Jaya Thakur and Randeep Surjewala, Trinamool Congress MP Mohua Moitra, the party’s Saket Gokhale, and advocate M L Sharma, among others.

The petitions challenge the amendments made by the government to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003, through an ordinance on November 14, 2021, giving itself the power to extend the tenure of the ED director by up to five years.

Mishra, who was Principal Special Director in ED, was appointed the agency’s director on November 19, 2018, for a two-year period. On November 13, 2020, this was extended by one year, and again by a year in 2021.

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Appearing for one of the petitioners, senior advocate A M Singhvi said the challenge is to the fixity of tenure. He said the amendment puts the incumbent on a probationary kind of pattern, and says the official can get piecemeal extensions.

Singhvi pointed out that in 1998 the apex court had ruled that fixity of tenure is one of the hallmarks of independence. “If I know that I will or will not get a periodic extension, that itself is a great diminution of my independence,” he contended.

Singhvi said the extension granted to Mishra was in violation of the SC’s September 8, 2021 ruling — in it, the court, while refusing to interfere with the government’s decision to extend his tenure from 2 to 3 years, had stated that “no further extension shall be granted” to him beyond that date, he added.

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To a query from the bench, Singhvi said the “committee for selection of the director is entirely executive”.

Senior advocate Sanjay Ghose, also appearing for one of the petitioners, said the Department of Personnel and Training officials, especially in the Indian Revenue Service, are required as per government memorandum to file returns of their moveable and immovable property annually, by January 1. They are filed in the department and uploaded on the website, he said.

The consequence of failing to do so is disciplinary action and the official concerned would not be considered for promotions, Ghose submitted.

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“Here…this gentleman who has not filed for five years and is not only being promoted, there is no disciplinary action against him and he is [also] being given extension,” Ghose said.

First published on: 02-08-2022 at 02:40:25 pm
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