SC Rejects Centre's Petition on ED Tenure Extension, Stating That Even Those Facing Corruption Charges Have A Right To Be Heard
On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected the Centre's argument that petitions against the modified law's five-year term extension for the head of the Enforcement Directorate should not be considered since they were brought by political organisations charged with significant money laundering.
The highest court ruled that petitioners had the right to turn to the courts for redress of their concerns even if they were involved in legal proceedings.
"They would still have a locus even if they were charged. Who else will have a locus if not these people?" Observed by a three-judge panel led by Justice B R Gavai.
The statement followed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's clarification that he never referred to the petitioners as "victims."
Senior attorney Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who was representing one of the petitioners, said that the Centre's concern was that the petitions were brought by political parties, who are "victims" of the Enforcement Directorate. This explanation was provided in response to his statement (ED).
Mehta said he never used the term "victim," and that the persons being implicated in these situations are really partygoers.
Sankaranarayanan was directed by the supreme court to remove the "victim" from his quote that was attributed to the Solicitor General.
Sankaranarayanan said that piecemeal expansions had turned ED into a "caged parrot," endangering the institution's independence.
Sankaranarayanan was then instructed by the supreme court to limit his contributions to legal arguments.
"Whether the person in front of us belongs to party A or party B doesn't really matter to us. We must make our decision based on the law. No matter if the petitioner is a member of the BJP or another party, the legislation would remain the same "Judge Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol were also on the bench, and they spoke.
The inquiry into a matter, according to Sankaranarayanan, cannot be impartial if the subject is aware that he would only be given a delay if he is a "good boy" (obedient to the government).
In support of the Organization Common Cause, attorney Prashant Bhushan argued that autonomous institutions like the ED are necessary for the rule of law.
The very goal of these institutions and the rule of law itself, according to Bhushan, would be defeated if these revisions were maintained.
Anoop George Chaudhary, a seasoned attorney representing Congresswoman Jaya Thakur, said that while the Center had prolonged the ED director's term due to "administrative exigencies," such "exigencies" could not last forever.
The case's amicus curiae, senior lawyer K V Viswanathan, contended that the extension of the ED director violates the law and that it is crucial to protect the office from government interference.
The hearing will resume on April 20 since it was still not resolved.
On December 12 of last year, the Supreme Court requested a response from the Union and others in response to a complaint contesting the third extension given to ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.
In response to a petition submitted by Jaya Thakur, it had sent notifications to the Union of India, the Central Vigilance Commission, and the director of the ED.
The central government was charged with undermining democracy's "fundamental framework" by turning law enforcement against its political rivals.
A number of petitions were up for consideration before the bench, including those submitted by Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Thakur, as well as Mahua Moitra and Saket Gokhale of the TMC.
Mishra received a new one-year extension from the Union government, the third for the Indian Revenue Service officer in the job, in accordance with a formal order.
According to a government announcement, the IRS officer from the 1984 batch will remain in service till November 18, 2023.
On November 19, 2018, Mishra, 62, was first chosen to serve as the ED's director for two years. Eventually, the central government retroactively altered the appointment letter, increasing his two-year tenure to three years, by decree dated November 13, 2020.
The government issued an ordinance last year that allowed the ED and CBI directors' terms to be extended beyond the required two years by up to three more.