On Sunday, the President of India promulgated two Ordinances by the Ministry of Law and Justice effectively allowing for terms of the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) for up to five years, as opposed to the previous fixed term of two years. The extension will be granted each year as opposed to fixing the tenure at five years.
The move is being seen by many as a means for the regime to exercise greater control over the two premier investigation agencies in the country. As long as the chiefs dance to the regime’s tunes, they can keep their jobs.
The Ordinances essentially amend two key Acts that govern the functioning of these agencies:
– Delhi Police Special Establishment Act that governs the functioning of the CBI, and
– the Central Vigilance Act that concerns the appointment of the director of the ED.
The Ordinances may be read here:
Both the CBI and the ED have been allegedly used by the regime to target dissenters and human rights activists, who are often allegedly dragged into criminal cases on trumped up charges. The CBI has already faced allegations of being a “caged parrot”, now even the ED has been disempowered as part of is being seen as the regime’s wider proto-fascist agenda.
The move, understandably therefore, drew sharp criticism from civil society members. Calling it “shocking and malafide, activist and advocate Prashant Bhushan said that this was “an attempt to further subvert the independence of CBI and ED.”
Sitaram Yechuri, meanwhile drew attention to the timing of the Ordinances and pointed out how these are just surreptitious methods to subvert the Parliament. He tweeted, “Parliament session begins on 29th. To avoid its scrutiny, Centre on Sunday promulgates ordinances to extend the tenure of Directors of CBI and ED. This desperate hurry smacks of something fishy.”
Many others including Derek O’Brian from the Trinamool Congress, Sanjay Jha of the Congress, also condemned the move.
Two brazen Ordinances extend ED and CBI Director terms from 2?? to 5 years ?????#Parliament Winter Session begins two weeks from now. Be rest assured, Opposition parties will do all it takes to stop India from turning into an elected autocracy
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 15, 2021
So now ED and CBI head to have 5 year terms being hurriedly pushed through an Ordinance. This proves two things:
1) BJP is corrupting institutional integrity and independence
2) It is worried it might or will lose 2024.
Even a start-up has a better job rotation policy.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) November 15, 2021
ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra, a 1984-batch Indian Revenue Service officer of the Income Tax cadre, was appointed ED director on November 19, 2018. His term was to come to an end in 2020. But he was granted an extension amidst much controversy last year.
Interestingly, on September 8, this year the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea challenging Mishra’s term extension. But the SC bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai had also held, “We make it clear that no further extension shall be granted to the second respondent.” The second respondent in the case was SK Mishra. The complete order may be read here:
Meanwhile, the CBI has been scandal-ridden since the very public feud between Alok Kumar Verma and Rakesh Asthana in 2018 (dubbed CBI vs CBI), when they held two of the senior-most posts in the investigative agency. Asthana has now been appointed Commissioner of Delhi Police. Interestingly, Asthana is also a 1984-batch IPS officer, and was due to retire on July 31, 2021. However, his service tenure has now been extended for one more year, or till further orders.
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