Pleas against ED Director’s extension: SC appoints K.V. Viswanathan as amicus curiae

The Supreme Court on Monday appointed senior advocate K.V. Viswanathan as amicus curiae in connection with a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of the extension of tenure given to present Enforcement Directorate (ED) Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, said: “Considering the issues raised, we appoint senior advocate K.V. Viswanathan as amicus curiae to assist us in this case.”

The top court added that the amicus would be assisted by an advocate-on-record, and scheduled the hearing on the petitions on September 19.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that the government’s reply would be served on the parties on Monday.

Questioning the bona fides, Mehta said most of the petitions have been filed by members of political parties whose leaders are facing ED cases.

The top court was hearing a batch of 8 petitions filed by Trinamool Congress and Congress leaders — Dr. Jaya Thakur, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Saket Gokhale, Mahua Moitra – and other petitions filed by advocate M.L. Sharma, Krishna Chander Singh, and Vineet Narain, challenging the extension of tenure of the ED Director.

On August 2, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing Surjewala, submitted that the amendment allows the Central government to give yearly extensions to the ED Director up to 5 years, which puts the officer at tge government’s discretion and compromises the independence of the post.

Singhvi added that in the Common Cause v. Union of India judgment, the top court had directed last year that Mishra cannot be given further extension.

During the hearing, a counsel pointed out that Mishra had completed 4 years as ED Director. Another counsel argued that the ED Director’s failure to upload his immovable property returns from 2017-2020 and the vigilance rules and the official memorandum states that clearance for the top post won’t be granted if the returns aren’t uploaded.

The petitioners have argued that extension given to Mishra is a blatant violation of the top court’s directions by promulgating an ordinance to amend the Central Vigilance Commission Act to allow an extension up to 5 years for the term of ED Director.

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