The petitions filed by the likes of Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra, social activist and General Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Congress Mahila Committee Jaya Thakur have sought the quashing of a government order of November 2021 extending Mr. Mishra’s tenure by a year.
Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, the petitioners have questioned the legality of amendments made to the Central Vigilance Commission Act by way of promulgation of an ordinance in November last year. This ordinance, which allows extensions upto five years for ED Director, paved the way for the government to stretch Mr. Mishra’s tenure by a year till November 2022. The ordinance, which became an Act in December, was promulgated within days of a Supreme Court order barring any further extensions to Mr. Mishra, the petitioners contended.
“Piecemeal extensions of tenure like this takes away the fixity of tenure, which is the hallmark of independence,” senior advocate A.M. Singhvi contended for the petitioners.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, also for the petitioners, submitted that Mr. Mishra is going to finish his fourth year as ED Director and may also get another year’s extension in November 2022.
On a question from the Bench about the selection process for ED Director, he submitted that the selection committee was composed entirely of members of the executive without any “external” authorities like the Chief Justice of India as in the case of the selection of the CBI Director.
“The selection process gives complete unfettered discretion to the executive,” Mr. Singhvi said.
Mr. Sankaranarayanan said the apex court order that Mr. Mishra should not be given any further extension at the top of the specialised Central agency which investigates sensitive cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act came on September 8, 2021.
The ordinance came on November 14 last year, just four days before Mr. Mishra’s tenure was going to end on November 18. Saket Gokhale, another petitioner, argued that Mr. Mishra had not filed the returns of his moveable and immovable property for five years. “On the first instance itself he is disqualified,” Mr. Gokhale’s lawyer submitted.
“The official memorandum of the Department of Personnel and Training requires officials to file their returns of moveable and immovable property annually, by January 1 itself every year. They are filed in the department and uploaded on the website,” the lawyer said.
Not doing so would attract disciplinary action and the official would also not be considered for promotion, he noted.
“This gentleman has not filed for five years and is still being promoted and given extensions… Let the government say how it wants to respect its own official memorandum,” he challenged.