SC asks govt. whether Mishra is so indispensable to ED

‘Is there no other person in the organisation who can do his job?’

May 04, 2023 02:25 am | Updated 02:25 am IST - NEW DELHI

 Sanjay Kumar Mishra. File.

 Sanjay Kumar Mishra. File.

The Supreme Court on May 3 quizzed the government about the third extension given to Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra, asking whether “one person can be so indispensable”.

“Is there no other person in the organisation who can do his job? Can one person be so indispensable? Is there no one else in ED who is competent? What will happen post 2023, when he does retire?” a three-judge Bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai asked the Centre.

At one point, the court remarked that the country had gone on despite the assassination of a Prime Minister years ago.

The apex court had categorically directed the government to not give any further extension to Mr. Mishra in a judgment in September 2021.

However, the government, within two months of the judgment, made amendments in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act by way of promulgation of an ordinance in November 2021. These amendments had paved the way for the government to stretch Mr. Mishra’s tenure by a year till November 2022. On the strength of these changes, the government had again given the 1984-batch Indian Revenue Service officer his third extension in November 2022. He is expected to continue till November 18, 2023.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, said Mr. Mishra’s extension was vital for India’s evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“The next peer review of India’s legislation on money laundering is to take place in 2023 and, with a view to ensuring that India’s rating does not go down, continuity of the leadership in the Enforcement Directorate is crucial...We are not dealing with individuals, but with the performance of an entire country,” he contended.

Mr. Mehta questioned the locus standi of the petitioners in the case.

The petitions filed by Congress party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra, social activist and general secretary of Madhya Pradesh Congress Mahila Committee Jaya Thakur have argued that the “piecemeal” extensions affect “institutional independence”.

Mr. Mehta said the petitioners belonged to political parties whose leaders were facing serious charges.

But the court asked whether people could be stopped from filing petitions for the sole reason that they belong to political parties. It listed the case for further arguments on May 8.

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