In a setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the extension of Sanjay Kumar Mishra’s tenure as Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief for the third time is illegal. The apex court, however, allowed him to continue till July 31 and directed the Centre to appoint a new chief after that.
In November last year, the Centre granted a one year-extension to Mishra, who was appointed the ED’s chief in November 2018. He was set to retire two years later on reaching the age of 60, but in November 2020, the Centre revised the appointment order and increased his tenure to three years. Examining the validity of the extension then, the SC had held that tenure of a superannuated officer may be extended only in “rare and exceptional” circumstances. In December 2022, the top court sought a response from the Centre while hearing pleas challenging the third extension granted to the central probe agency’s chief.
The Centre maintained that Mishra was in the middle of a peer review by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), NDTV reported. “This officer is not some DGP (Director General of Police) of any state but an officer representing the country in a United Nation-like body and is in the midst of something. This court must not interfere with his tenure and from November onwards, he will not be there,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said on behalf of the Centre. After listening to the submissions, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Gavai reserved its verdict on May 8.
The SC on Tuesday backed the amendments made to the Central Vigilance Commission Act and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which allow the Centre to extend the terms of probe agency chiefs by up to five years. The recent amendment in the Central Vigilance Commission Act was challenged before the apex counrt in separate PILs filed by opposition leaders including Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jaya Thakur, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra. The extension of Mishra’s tenure was widely crticised by opposition parties who have accused the Centre of using probe agencies to target political rivals.