SC issues notice to Centre on plea challenging retrospective extension of ED chief’s tenure
The tenure of Enforcement Directorate chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra was increased from two to three years.
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre, the Central Vigilance Commission and the Enforcement Directorate challenging the retrospective change in the appointment order of ED chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra, reported Bar and Bench. The change increased Mishtra’s tenure from two to three years. A notice was also issued to Mishra.
The petition, filed by non-governmental organisation Common Cause, has sought quashing the November order, amending Mishra’s tenure. The NGO claimed that the order was in violation of Section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003. Section 25(d) of the Act provides that 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.
Mishra was appointed as director of enforcement in the central agency for two years in November 2018 from the date of assumption of the charge of the post or till further orders, whichever fell earlier. The tenure ended in November last year.
However, on November 13, the Centre issued an order, stating that President Ram Nath Kovind has modified the 2018 order to the effect that a period of “two years” was changed to “three years”.
“Thus, by virtue of the impugned Office Order, dated 13.11.2020, the appointment order dated 19.11.2018 has been modified with retrospective effect and the Respondent No.2 herein has been given an additional one year of service as Director of Enforcement in the Enforcement Directorate.”— The petition filed by NGO Common Cause.
During the hearing, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing Common Cause, said that the retrospective change to increase the ED chief’s tenure was illegal and must be cancelled, reported NDTV.
Bhushan said that the post being “politically sensitive”, the extension given to Mishra has curtailed the independence of the Enforcement Directorate.
The petition said that the purpose behind providing a tenure of two years was only to insulate the director from all kinds of influences and pressures. “However, the said purpose gets defeated if on the verge of his two-year tenure and much after his retirement age, the director of enforcement is given a de facto extension in service by adoption of a circuitous route of modifying the initial appointment order itself,” it said. Mishra reached the retirement age of 60 in May 2020.
It further contended that such actions would shake the confidence of citizens in the central agency. The petitioner also sought a direction to the Ministry of Finance “to appoint a director, Enforcement Directorate, in a transparent manner and strictly in accordance with the mandate of Section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003”.