Weakening autonomy – on ED’s tenure extension

Source– The post is based on the article “Weakening autonomy” published in “The Hindu” on 13th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Indian Polity

Relevance: Institutional Autonomy

News – Supreme Court’s verdict in 2021 to allow multiple extensions of service to heads of investigative agencies is a setback.

What is the verdict all about?

The Supreme Court has supported changes made in 2021 that allow heads of investigative agencies to have multiple extensions of their service.

This decision is seen as a setback to protecting the independence of these agencies.

However, the court has also cancelled the two one-year extensions given to the Director of Enforcement, S.K. Mishra. As a result, Mr. Mishra has been asked to step down on July 31.

The court stated that although Parliament can change the basis for a judgement through legislation, it cannot nullify a court order.

Mr. Mishra was appointed for a two-year term in 2018, but in 2020, his appointment was retrospectively changed to a three-year term. Despite being past the retirement age, he received two annual extensions in 2021 and 2022.

The government ignored the court’s earlier suggestion that such extensions should only be granted in exceptional cases.

What are the impacts of judgements?

The Court’s endorsement of a tenure extension system will undermine their independence and against the rule of law.

The amendments violate fundamental rights as the government can instruct the Directors who can pick and choose what cases to investigate based on political instructions.

It also offends the rights of citizens to equal treatment and impartial investigation.

The misuse of government agencies against political opponents.

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