November 18, 2021 - 9:07 am

CBI, ED Chiefs Get Extensions 

The centre promulgated two ordinances that would extend the tenure of the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate from 2 years to up to 5 years. The chiefs of the central agencies currently have a fixed two-year tenure but can now be given three annual extensions.

                                               The development comes two months after the Supreme Court ruled that extensions beyond the date of superannuation of an individual should be rare, in exceptional cases only. The apex court had asked the Centre not to further extend the tenure of current ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra whose already extended tenure ends in a week's time. The landmark judgment in the Vineet Narain vs Union of India case in 1997, popularly known as the Jain Hawala Case, led to structural changes in the CBI including two year tenure for the agency's director. However, the latest ordinance is likely to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling and make Mishra eligible for another two years' extensions.

                                               Not surprisingly, the move has riled the opposition as the ordinances were brought in barely two weeks before the winter session of Parliament gets under way from November 29. Vineet Narain, the petitioner in the 1997 judgment, has expressed disappointment over ordinances. Critics raise questions over the significance of this ordinances' power. This leads to the question of independence of the investigating agency. Therefore, here,  the Supreme Court stands still to defend the institution to make sure that some autonomy was granted to the institution. The ordinances come at a time when both CBI & ED have been accused by the opposition of selectively going after their leaders. The changed law opens up space for manipulation. The acid test will only be checked when it guest through Parliament. Till then wait and watch.