Extension of ED chief's tenure illegal, amicus curiae tells SC
Viswanathan cited the apex court's decisions in Vineet Narain & others v. Union of India and Common Cause v. Union of India to support his contention
Senior advocate K.V. Viswanathan, the amicus curiae in the petitions challenging the extension of the tenure of Director of Enforcement Directorate (ED) Sanjay Kumar Mishra, told the Supreme Court on Monday that the extension was illegal.
Viswanathan cited the apex court's decisions in Vineet Narain & others v. Union of India and Common Cause v. Union of India to support his contention.
He submitted before a bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Aravind Kumar that the issue was not about the incumbent Director at all, rather it was about the principle.
The amicus further contended that that extension is illegal not just because of the direction in Common Cause judgment that Mishra should not be given further extension beyond November 2021, but due to specific observation made in the judgment that extension should be granted only in exceptional circumstances.
The top court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the extension of tenure of ED Director and the 2021 amendment to the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003, which enables Centre to extend the tenure of the ED Director.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing one of the petitioners, assailed the extension on the ground that 'piecemeal' extensions impinged on the independence of an official and when tenures are fixed, it gives public officials strength and infuses them with independent objectives.
Singhvi said: "Here, a statute is effectively saying that the tenure will be extended for a period not exceeding one year, but as many as five times. The message is clear that such an extension would not be granted if the official fails to do the executive's biddinga..."
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan suggested that on the day when the matter is taken up for the hearing, the amicus curiae could open the submissions.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, however, said the amicus can open submissions only after the preliminary objection made by the ED against the locus standi of the petitioners is decided.
After hearing submissions, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing on March 21.
In a written response, the Central government has told the Supreme Court that the PIL challenging the extension of tenure of ED chief Mishra has been filed with the intention of protecting Congress leaders who are facing money laundering charges.
In a counter-affidavit, the Centre said the PIL is clearly motivated and is admittedly intended to scuttle the legitimate statutory investigation being carried out by the ED against certain politically exposed persons. "The real motive of the petition is to question the investigation being carried out against the president and certain office bearers of Indian National Congress (INC)...", it claimed.
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