SC extends ED chief’s term till Sept 15 in ‘national interest’: what is the case

SC extends ED chief’s term till Sept 15 in ‘national interest’: what is the case

Context- The Supreme Court Thursday allowed Sanjay Kumar Mishra to continue as the director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) till September 15, instead of the earlier July 31 deadline.

(Credits- Enterslice)

A bench of Justices B R Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol said it was granting the extension in “larger public and national interest” but that Mishra would cease to remain ED chief from the midnight of September 15.

Before this, the Supreme Court had declared the two tenure extensions granted to ED director beyond September 8, 2021 as “not valid in law”.

What “compelled” the Centre to seek another extension?

  • In a plea filed seeking modification of the top court’s July 11 verdict, the Centre reasoned that the court had earlier permitted ED Director an extension of tenure given the government’s concerns over the ongoing Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review.
  • Describing the process at length, the government’s application said that the FATF is an inter-governmental body that has “developed its recommendations to prevent and combat money laundering and terror financing”. About 200 countries/jurisdictions, including India, are committed to implementing these standards, the government said.
  • To this end the “FATF conducts peer reviews of all its member countries on a regular basis to assess levels of implementation of the FATF recommendations and provide an in-depth description and analysis of each country’s system for preventing criminal abuse of the financial system,” the application reads.
  • Terming this mutual evaluation exercise as a “comprehensive multi-stage” one involving “investigating agencies, prosecutors, intelligence agencies, regulators, policy making” and “international and internal cooperation and coordination amongst them” the Centre said that India is currently in its fourth stage of the process.
  • Emphasising the need for Mishra’s continuance, the government said, “At such a critical juncture, it is essential to have an individual who is well-acquainted with the overall status of money laundering investigations and proceedings across the country and also the intricacies of the procedures, operations and activities of the investigating agency, at the helm of affairs at the Directorate of Enforcement.”
  • Additionally, the Centre said that it is necessary to ensure that the assessment team can be promptly and ably assisted with necessary reports, information, statistics and cautioned against “any transition in leadership” at this stage as it “would significantly impair the ability of the agency to provide necessary assistance to and co-operation with the assessment team and thereby adversely impact India’s national interests.”

What was the July 11 verdict?

  • In “Dr. Jaya Thakur vs. Union of India”, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that the two tenure extensions granted to Mishra, beyond the previously fixed September 8, 2021 cut-off date, were “illegal”.
  • In November last year, the 1984-batch IRS officer was granted a second tenure extension up to November 18, 2023. However, the court on July 11, struck down this extension on grounds that it violated its September 8, 2021 ruling in “Common Cause (A Registered Society) v. Union of India & Ors”.
  • However, the three-judge bench, in the July 11 ruling, upheld as constitutional the amendments made to the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, and the Fundamental Rules in 2021, enabling Mishra’s tenure extension(s).

What was the 2021 ruling?

  • On September 8, 2021, a Bench of Justices B R Gavai and L Nageswara Rao upheld the Centre’s order extending the tenure of Mishra beyond two years.
  • However, the Bench said that “extension of tenure…to officers who have attained the age of superannuation should be done only in rare and exceptional cases”, and that such extensions “should be for a short period”.

Conclusion- Fixed tenure of civil servants ensures neutrality of Civil Service, which is sine qua non for public and political faith and in the system . It also tells aspiring civil servants that promotions and posting are solely based on merit and not political considerations.

Syllabus- GS-2; Government Bodies

Source- Indian Express