The centre, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) will have to reply to a Supreme Court notice over retrospective change in the appointment of ED director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.
A non-profit, Common Cause, had challenged the extension of Mr Mishra from two to three years.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is representing the non-profit, said the retrospective change to increase the ED chief’s tenure to three years was illegal and must be cancelled.
Mr Bhushan said the ED director had already superannuated and the post being a “politically sensitive” one, the extension has curtailed the independence of the ED chief.
Mr Mishra, an Indian Revenue Service officer, was appointed ED director for two years in November 2018. In November last year, the appointment was modified “retrospectively” by the centre and his term of two years was replaced by three years.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat also issued notice to the ED director.
The petitioner sought a direction to the Finance Ministry “to appoint a Director, Enforcement Directorate in a transparent manner and strictly in accordance with the mandate of Section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003”.
The petitioner alleged the government “employed a circuitous route” to ensure that Mr Mishra got one more year as ED director by retrospectively modifying the appointment order. There is neither any enabling provision in the Central Vigilance Commission Act for extending the service of the ED director nor any enabling provision that provides for such retrospective modification of appointment orders, the petitioner said.
The petition said the ED handles a large number of cases involving huge corruption, many of which are politically sensitive in nature, and the probe agency’s director has powers akin to that of the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).