Congress leader Surjewala challenges CBI, ED chiefs’ extension in SC
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala has approached the Supreme Court challenging the two Ordinances allowing the Centre to extend the tenure of heads of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Directorate of Enforcement for up to five years.
In his petition, Surjewala said that such “ad hoc extension” goes against the Supreme Court rulings that intend to insulate these agencies from any kind of political interference. He cited the 1997 decision in Vineet Narain case where the Court held a minimum secured tenure for CBI and ED directors followed by the Alok K Verma case (2019) where the need to insulate CBI Director from all extraneous influences was laid down.
On September 8, the top court, in yet another decision, considered the extension granted by the Centre to the incumbent ED director and said that such an extension has to be in “rare and exceptional” circumstances and for a short period.
“These investigative agencies were created to serve the public but with these amendments, they are being subordinated in a clear and malicious fashion to serve the will of the executive,” said the petition filed through advocate Abhishek Jebaraj.
It further said that the ordinances go against the Supreme Court rulings that gave much-needed stability to the tenure of Director of Enforcement and Director, CBI to protect them from political interference.
The two ordinances – Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance and Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Ordinance – that amend Section 25 and Section 4B of the CVC Act 2003 and DSPE Act 1946 respectively were promulgated on November 14.
The CBI and ED directors are appointed for a two-year tenure. The twin amendments allow the Centre to extend their original tenure by one year at a time with a rider that “no such extension shall be granted after the completion of five years in total, including the period sanctioned in the initial appointment.”
The petition further questioned the two ordinances on the ground that there are no criteria provided save for a vague reference to ‘public interest’ and is in fact, based on the subjective satisfaction of the respondents. “This has the direct and clear impact of eroding the independence of the investigative bodies in question,” the petition added.
The petition also questioned the reason for bringing the ordinance 15 days before the Parliament is to convene and said, “This hurried rush, of promulgating the ordinances three days before the retirement of the incumbent director ED, is only intended to allow the government to extend the term of the said director ED which comes to an end on November 17.” He called the ordinances an exercise of abuse of power that is manifestly arbitrary.
Surjewala said that this Court has held time and again that the CBI is required to function independently and be insulated from extraneous influences to discharge its functions in accordance with the rule of law. However, such a “piecemeal extension system”, creates a perverse incentive for officials to serve at the pleasure of the government, the petition stated.
On Wednesday, Trinamool Congress MP Mohua Moitra filed a petition challenging the two ordinances. She stated that by an ordinance, the Centre cannot nullify a Supreme Court decision and a one year extension period cannot be termed as a “short” extension, considering the fact that the total tenure of both CBI and ED directors is two years.