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'Even those facing graft cases have a locus': SC on pleas against ED Director tenure extension

IANS | March 24, 2023 12:22 AM

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday did not agree with the Central government's contention that pleas against the extension of the tenure of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Director should not be entertained since they were filed by political entities facing money laundering charges.

A bench, headed by Justice B.R. Gavai said even if they are accused, still they have a locus, and if these people would not have locus, then who else would?

The bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, made this observation after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that he never used the word "victim" for the petitioners.

During the hearing, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing one of the petitioners, contended that the government's objection was that the petitions were filed by political parties, who are "victims" of the ED. Mehta made his clarification after this submission.

The bench asked Sankaranarayanan to withdraw the "victim" from his statement with attribution to the SG. Sankaranarayanan further submitted that ED has become a "caged parrot" and stressed that independent investigation cannot be carried out if a person knows that he would be granted an extension only if he is a "good boy". However, the bench asked him to focus his submissions on the legal issues involved in the matter.

The bench said it is hardly bothered as to whether a person before it is belonging to party A or B. "We have to decide the matter on the basis of law, " it said, adding that the law would not change if the petitioner is belonging to a political party.

Senior advocate Anoop George Chaudhary, representing Congress leader Jaya Thakur, submitted that ED Director's tenure was extended citing administrative exigencies, and stressed that such "exigencies" cannot continue indefinitely.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing NGO Common Cause, contended that institutions like the ED should be independent in the interest of rule of law and these amendments, if upheld, would defeat the entire purpose of these institutions.

Senior advocate K V Viswanathan, amicus curiae in the case, argued that the extension of the ED director is illegal. The top court will continue to hear the matter on April 20.

The petitioners have challenged the third extension given to the term of ED Director S.K. Mishra and also the CVC Amendment Act 2021.

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the PIL challenging the extension of tenure ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra has been filed with the intention of protecting Congress leaders who are facing money laundering charges.

Pointing at the petitioners - Randeep Singh Surjewala, Jaya Thakur (both Congress), Saket Gokhale and Mahua Moitra (Trinamool Congress), the affidavit said the eminent leaders of these parties are under investigation of the ED.

"It is respectfully submitted that certain leaders of the aforesaid political parties are under investigation of the Directorate. The investigation is strictly going on in accordance with law which is reflected from the fact that in most of the cases, either the competent courts have taken cognizance of the offence of constitutional courts have refused to grant any relief to such leaders of the above political parties, " said the affidavit, filed by the Centre in the apex court.

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