A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking to quash the Centre's decision to "retrospectively" amend the tenure of Sanjay Kumar Mishra as the director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The petition, filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan for NGO Common Cause, also sought a direction to the central government to appoint a director for the agency "in a transparent manner and strictly in accordance with the law".
It has contended that the order issued by the Centre extending Mishra's tenure for one more year, was in violation of the provisions of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003.
The petition, which is likely to come up for hearing in the coming days, has alleged that the government employed a circuitous route to ensure Kumar got one more year as director of ED by way of retrospectively modifying the appointment order itself.
Mishra, an IRS officer, was appointed ED director for two years by an order dated November 19, 2018, the plea said.
However, the central government on November 13, 2020, issued an office order in which it was stated that the President has modified the 2018 order to the effect that a period of "two years" written in the 2018 order was modified to a period of "three years", it said.
"The Centre has done indirectly what could not have been done directly under the statute," the plea said.
The petition contended that the ED handles a large number of cases involving huge corruption, many of which are politically sensitive in nature, and the agency's director has powers akin to that of the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
It added that "such illegalities in the appointment of the Director of Enforcement will shake the confidence of citizens in the institution of Enforcement Directorate."
"Such an action will be totally against the laudable principles highlighting the need of impeccable integrity of persons holding high public offices and the consequent need for insulating the said offices from extraneous influences, as enshrined by the Supreme Court...," it said.
ED director's appointment is governed by the CVC Act which provides that no person below the rank of additional secretary to the government of India shall be eligible for appointment for the post and the director so appointed will continue to hold office for a period of not less than two years from the date on which he assumes office, the plea said.