SC to consider hearing plea against tenure extension of ED director
The Supreme Court Wednesday said it will consider hearing a plea against the Union government’s move to grant a tenure extension to Enforcement Directorate (ED) Director S K Mishra.
The plea, filed by Congress leader Jaya Thakur, contended that the extension was in violation of the top court’s September 8, 2021, ruling. The court had then refused to interfere with a government decision to extend Mishra’s tenure from two to three years but had said no further extension shall be granted beyond that date.
But the Centre, through an ordinance, amended the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003, giving itself the power to extend the tenure of the ED Director to up to five years.
Thakur’s plea, which also challenges the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Act, 2021, was mentioned before a bench presided by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, which agreed to consider listing it for hearing.
Mishra, who was Principal Special Director in ED, was appointed Director on November 19, 2018, for two years. On November 13, 2020, this was extended by one more year.
The Supreme Court had refused to interfere with the extension of service from two to three years saying that the CVC Act, which dealt with the appointment to the post, only said that such officers shall hold office for not less than two years which cannot be read to mean not more than two years.
“Prescription of a minimum period of two years is to ensure that the Director of Enforcement is not transferred or shifted from the said post during the course of investigation of serious offences. There is no ambiguity in Section 25 (d) of CVC Act and the words ‘not less than two years’ simply mean a minimum of two years. There is no scope for reading the words to mean ‘not more than two years’, the SC had said.
“The words ‘not less than two years’ cannot be read to mean ‘not more than two years’ and there is no fetter on the power of the Central government in appointing the Director of Enforcement beyond a period of two years,” it had added.
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The court had said it did not intend to interfere with the extension of tenure of Mishra “for the reason that his tenure is coming to an end in November, 2021” but made it clear that “no further extension shall be granted to” him beyond that date.
“We should make it clear that extension of tenure granted to officers who have attained the age of superannuation should be done only in rare and exceptional cases…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. Any extension of tenure granted to persons holding the post of Director of Enforcement after attaining the age of superannuation should be for a short period”, the top court had said.