'Minus one person, ED would be ineffective?': SC asks Centre on Mishra's tenure

The Supreme Court was hearing petitions against an unprecedented third extension given to Enforcement Directorate chief S.K. Mishra

ED headquarters (Photo: IANS)
ED headquarters (Photo: IANS)


The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre that minus one person, would the Enforcement Directorate (ED) would become totally ineffective, while hearing petitions against the third extension given to the term of ED Director S.K. Mishra.

The Centre had stressed that Mishra was given extension keeping in view the ongoing evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the apex court was informed that he will not continue in office beyond November 2023.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai that the FATF was going on and that is why the government decided that "continuity will help and if India does not fare well in FATF evaluation. India gets grading, every country gets grading".

Mehta submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, that 2023 is an important year, citing the FATF review, and India's performance in implementing FATF guidelines to be assessed this year and it was supposed to be held in 2019-20, but was postponed to 2023 due to Covid.

The bench asked Mehta that anyway Mishra cannot stay on beyond November, unless you amend the law again. Mehta said FATF is currently going on, continuity would help us and the process to be mostly over by November this year.

Justice Gavai said: "The question would be minus one person, the ED is totally ineffective?" Mehta said absence of one person will not make the agency stop functioning, it can never be, leaders make the difference and no organisation is ineffective in absence of one particular individual but presence of one particular individual who has done everything all these years, makes the difference and that is the answer.

"Nobody becomes non-functional (in the absence of one individual) under any circumstances," he said, adding that Director of ED is not a promotional post and from a pool of officers, this person is selected by a panel, and additional directors and joint directors are not even in the zone of consideration because of eligibility criteria.

As Mehta tried to argue on petitioners, in the matter, belong to the political parties, Justice Gavai said: "We had refused to go into that question... let this not be converted into a political platform... merely somebody is from a political party".

Mehta said that ED Director is not the director general of police, he represents the country internationally and in any case, November onwards he will retire.

The bench, in a lighter vein, said, after November, ED will be non-functional, headless but clarified that it was on a lighter note.

After hearing detailed submissions, the top court reserved the judgment on a batch of petitions challenging the third extension given to the term of Enforcement Directorate chief Mishra and also the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Act, 2021.

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the PIL challenging the extension of tenure of Mishra has been filed with the intention of protecting Congress leaders who are facing money laundering charges.

Pointing at the petitioners - Randeep Singh Surjewala, Jaya Thakur (both Congress), Saket Gokhale and Mahua Moitra (Trinamool Congress), the affidavit said the eminent leaders of these parties are under investigation of the ED.

"It is respectfully submitted that certain leaders of the aforesaid political parties are under investigation of the Directorate. The investigation is strictly going on in accordance with law which is reflected from the fact that in most of the cases, either the competent courts have taken cognisance of the offence of constitutional courts have refused to grant any relief to such leaders of the above political parties", said the affidavit, filed by the Centre in the apex court.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines