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A Director of Enforcement Can Be Appointed For More Than Two Years: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled that by following the procedure outlined in Section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, a Director of Enforcement might be appointed for more than two years. The bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai also maintained the Union of India’s jurisdiction to extend the Director of Enforcement’s tenure beyond the two-year limit. It was clarified that tenure extensions for officers who have reached the age of superannuation should only be granted in rare and extraordinary circumstances.

In refusing to meddle with Director of Enforcement Directorate Sanjay Kumar Mishra’s tenure extension, the bench stated as much in its decision. Though the bench did not intervene with the extension of tenure, it did State that he would not be permitted any subsequent extensions. Mishra was appointed as Director of Enforcement for a two-year term beginning when he took over the position. The President of India accepted the amendment of the order dated 19.11.2018 by amending the appointment period from two to three years by an office order dated 13.11.2020.

The NGO Common Cause challenged the order, claiming that the three-year tenure extension violated Section 25 of the CVC Act. The Court, in this regard, stated that:

“Prescription of a minimum period of two years is pursuant to the directions issued by this Court in Vineet Narain (supra). The non-obstante clause in Section 25 gives overriding power to the said provision, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force. The minimum period of two years which is provided in Section 25 would operate notwithstanding the provisions contained in Fundamental Rule 56(a).”

The Court noted that the Union of India’s reason for extending the period is that key investigations into trans-border crimes are at a critical stage. It held,

“Though we have upheld the power of the Union of India to extend the tenure of Director of Enforcement beyond the period of two years, we should make it clear that extension of tenure granted to officers who have attained the age of superannuation should be done only in rare and exceptional cases. Reasonable period of extension can be granted to facilitate the completion of ongoing investigations only after reasons are recorded by the Committee constituted under Section 25 (a) of the Act.”

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