ED Chief Term Extension Challenged, SC Notice to Centre, CVC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice of a series of petitions challenging the extension of the deadline for Enforcement Directorate (ED) Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.

A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli issued the Notice to the Center and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on petitions filed by Congressional leaders Jaya Thakur and Randeep Surjewala, Trinamool Congressman Mohua Moitra, the party’s Saket Gokhale, endorsing ML Sharma, among others.

The petitions question the changes the Government made to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act 2003 by an Order of 14 November 2021 giving it the power to extend the ED Director’s term by up to five years extend.

Mishra, who was Principal Special Director at ED, was appointed Director of the agency on November 19, 2018 for a two-year term. This was extended by one year on November 13, 2020, and again by one year in 2021.

Senior lawyer AM Singhvi, who appeared for one of the petitioners, said the challenge was the immutability of tenure. He said the change puts the incumbent on a probationary model and said the officer could receive piecemeal renewals.

Singhvi pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that tenure was one of the hallmarks of independence. “Knowing whether or not I’m going to get a regular renewal is in itself a huge decrease in my independence,” he claimed.

Singhvi said the extension granted to Mishra violated the SC’s September 8, 2021 ruling – in which the court, while refusing to interfere with the government’s decision to extend his term from 2 to 3 years, had stated that ” no further extension will be granted beyond that date,” he added.

Responding to a question from the bank, Singhvi said the “committee for selecting the director is purely executive”.

Lead counsel Sanjay Ghose, who also acted for one of the petitioners, said officials from the Ministry of Human Resources and Training, particularly the Indian Financial Service, are required by the government memorandum to file returns of their movable and immovable property annually by January 1. They are filed in the department and uploaded to the website, he said.

Failure to do so would result in disciplinary action and the offending officer would be ineligible for promotion, Ghose said.

“Here… this gentleman who hasn’t reported back in five years and not just being promoted, there is no disciplinary action against him and he is [also] Got an extension,” Ghose said.

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