The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that people must be allowed to raise their voice in a democracy, while hearing a PIL by NGO Common Cause challenging the extension of tenure of Enforcement Directorate Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, contended that some of the NGOs should not be allowed to run a parallel government by filing multiple PILs on all issues, and service matters cannot be adjudicated in a public interest litigation.
However, a bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao noted that people must be allowed to raise their voice in a democracy.
As the Centre said that the ED Director’s tenure was extended as many cases of money laundering were at crucial stage and a change of guard could impact the probe, the top court observed that it appreciates he did a good work, but “you cannot say that he can continue till the cases are concluded”.
It noted that the question here is whether the tenure of the Director can be extended.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the NGO, contended Mishra was retiring in May 2020, and “this exercise was an unreasonable exercise of power”.
“Power has to be construed in a reasonable manner and not in an unreasonable manner,” he said, posing the question whether an “whether a person can be appointed beyond the period of superannuation?”
The Centre, however, contended that there was no illegality in its decision to modify the tenure of incumbent ED Director from two years to three years.
The hearing in the matter will continue on Wednesday.
The NGO’s plea contended that Centre has employed a circuitous route in order to ensure Mishra gets one more year as ED Director by way of retrospectively modifying the appointment order dated November 18, 2018, itself. The NGO has made three respondents in its plea: Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, the present ED Director, and the Central Vigilance Commission.
The plea filed by the NGO has sought direction for quashing November 13 order along with a direction to the Centre to appoint ED Director in a transparent manner and strictly in accordance with the mandate of Section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.
“The said two-year tenure has come to an end on November 19, 2020. Pertinently, the Respondent No 2 (Mishra) has already reached the retirement age of 60 years in May 2020,” the plea said.