The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday as many as eight petitions, including the ones filed by politicians Randeep Singh Surjewala and Mahua Moitra, challenging the extension of tenure of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) director and the amended law allowing such extensions up to five years.
According to the list of business uploaded on the apex court website, a bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit will hear the petitions, based on which notices were issued to the Centre and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The top court had issued notices on the PILs filed by Surjewala and Jaya Thakur, both Congress leaders, TMC MP Moitra, Saket Gokhale, Krishan Chander Singh, Vineet Narian and Manohar Lal Sharma on August 2.
Earlier, senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Surjewala, had referred to the apex court judgements and said the fixed tenures are the “hallmark of independence” and the fact that an incumbent may get an extension will “demolish” the independence of the office. Surjewala’s plea has challenged the amendment made by the central government to the fundamental concept decided by the apex court in two judgments in the Vineet Narayan and the Common Cause cases which were on fixed tenure.
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”…this amendment basically puts the incumbent on a fiduciary kind of pattern where one year, two year and three year extension at the discretion of the executive can be achieved. The amendments provide that you can get extensions piecemeal,” Singhvi had said.
The fact that an officer can get the extension in itself demolishes the independence, he had said.
Another senior advocate, Gopal Sankarnarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners, had said the present ED Director would be completing four years in the post this year, and an ordinance was promulgated a few days before his retirement on November 18 last year extending his tenure by a year more.
Advocates Shashank Ratnoo and Varun appeared for Jaya Thakur, a Madhya Pradesh Congress leader who has filed a separate PIL in the matter.
Advocate M L Sharma, who has filed the plea in his personal capacity, said the impugned ordinance was passed in violation of the constitutional scheme.
The PILs mostly challenge the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Act, 2021 which provides for extension of the term of ED’s director up to five years.
The Centre had on November 17, 2021 extended the tenure of ED chief Sanjay 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 up to five years.
Mishra is a 1984-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer of the Income Tax (IT) cadre.
The apex court in its September 8 judgement on a petition of NGO Common Cause had said 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 CVC Act.
It had also made it clear that no further extension can be granted to Mishra.
The court had also stated that an extension of 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…
”We make it clear that no further extension shall be granted to the second respondent,” the bench had said.