An advocate, who claims to have filed the first petition challenging the amended law allowing extension of tenure of the director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) up to five years, raised an objection in the Supreme Court on Monday about his matter being not listed at the top of the batch of pleas on the issue.
Advocate M L Sharma, who has filed one of the petitions in the matter, raised the issue before a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana and said that his plea was listed at the bottom of the batch of petitions in the cause list.
A total of eight petitions, some of which have also challenged the Centre’s decision to grant a one-year extension to Sanjay Kumar Mishra as head of the probe agency, came up for hearing before a bench, which also comprised justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli.
The CJI told Sharma that the plea listed at the top was mentioned for urgent listing recently.
”Because they had mentioned the matter that is why that has come up at the top,” the bench said.
Sharma told the court that the petition which was listed at the top was filed in 2022 while he had filed the plea in 2021.
”Whether your petition comes down or up, it does not matter because you are entitled to argue. We are hearing you,” the bench said.
Sharma contended who will be the lead petitioner in a matter — the petitioner who files the first petition or the one who files the last plea.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said public interest litigations (PIL) should not contain the name of the petitioner.
”In all PILs, I don’t think the name of the petitioner should at all be there,” he said, adding otherwise it becomes a competition to be the first one to file it.
The bench directed the apex court registry to verify the date of filing of the pleas and posted them for hearing on Tuesday.
Sankaranarayanan said this is how the main issue gets derailed.
At the outset, the bench wanted to know who was appearing for the Union of India in the matter.
Thereafter, Sharma raised the issue regarding the listing of his plea.
The pleas challenged the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Act 2021 which provides for the extension of the term of ED’s director up to five years.
The apex court in its September 8 last year judgement on a petition of NGO ‘Common Cause’ had said that a reasonable period of extension can be granted to facilitate the completion of ongoing investigations only after reasons are recorded by the Committee constituted under Section 25 (a) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act.
Later in November 2021, the CVC (Amendment) Act came into force. The Centre on November 17, 2021, extended the tenure of Mishra by a year till November 18, 2022, days after the Centre brought ordinances to allow the ED and CBI directors to occupy the office for up to five years.
The apex court had also made it clear in its September 2021 judgement that no further extension can be given to Mishra.
The court had further stated that an extension of the tenure of the director should be for a short period.
”We do not intend to interfere with the extension of tenure of the second respondent (Mishra) in the instant case for the reason that his tenure is coming to an end in November 2021…,” the court had said ”We make it clear that no further extension shall be granted to the second respondent,” it had said.
Mishra is a 1984-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer of the Income Tax (IT) Department cadre. The verdict had come on a plea filed by the NGO challenging retrospective change in the 2018 appointment order of Mishra as director of the ED.