Supreme Court grants tenure extension to ED Chief SK Mishra till September 15

The top court had ruled on July 11 that Mishra’s two consecutive one-year extensions were “illegal” and that the directives from the Centre were in “breach” of its mandamus in the 2021 ruling that the IRS commissioner should not be allowed another term.

Sanjay Kumar Mishra, the head of the Enforcement Directorate, was given permission by the Supreme Court of India to stay on until September 15 instead of the month that the Indian government had requested. The Supreme Court of India gave “larger public interest” as justification for granting the ED chief an extension.

Sanjay Kumar Mishra would stop holding the position as of the stroke of midnight on the 15th and 16th of September, the Supreme Court of India further observed.

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The Indian Government, which is led by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), petitioned the Supreme Court of India to extend Kumar’s tenure as head of the ED till October 15.

The Centre’s request to prolong the term of ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra through October 15 was considered by the Supreme Court on Thursday. During the hearing, the Centre stated that maintaining the ED chief’s position is essential since some of India’s neighbors want it to be placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list.” According to the Centre, Kumar’s absence from the current FATF review will be detrimental to India’s national interests.

Sanjay Kumar Mishra’s several extensions were previously deemed “illegal” by the Supreme Court.

The Center further emphasized that Mishra, 63, has been working on document preparation and other needs for mutual review since the start of 2020, and that his continued participation in this challenging and delicate process at this “critical stage” is therefore crucial. A multinational organization called the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is in charge of fighting the financing of terrorism and money laundering.

The top court had ruled on July 11 that Mishra’s two consecutive one-year extensions were “illegal” and that the directives from the Centre were in “breach” of its mandamus in the 2021 ruling that the IRS commissioner should not be allowed another term.

It had also shortened Mishra’s tenure, which had been extended from November to July 31.

In light of the peer review being performed by the FATF this year and to facilitate a smooth transition, Mishra’s tenure will be up till July 31, according to a bench of Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath, and Sanjay Karol.

The government notification stated that the IRS officer from the 1984 batch would otherwise continue to serve until November 18, 2023.

The government gave the following justification for Mishra’s retention: “At such a critical juncture, it is essential to have an individual who is well-acquainted with the overall status of money laundering investigations and proceedings across the country and also the intricacies of the procedures, operations, and activities of the investigating agency, at the helm of affairs at the Directorate of Enforcement.”

In order to provide the evaluation team with the appropriate reports, information, statistics, etc., it was said that this was necessary.

“Any leadership change at the Directorate of Enforcement at this time would significantly impede the agency’s ability to provide necessary assistance to and cooperation with the assessment team and, as a result, have a negative impact on India’s national interests,” the statement read.

A group of petitions, including those brought by TMC leaders Mahua Moitra and Saket Gokhale, Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jaya Thakur, and others, challenging the extensions handed to Mishra, have been heard by the bench.

On November 19, 2018, Mishra was first chosen as the ED director for a period of two years. Later, the central government retroactively altered the appointment letter, increasing his two-year tenure to three years, by decree dated November 13, 2020.

The government also passed a legislation last year that allows the ED and CBI directors’ terms to be extended by up to three years after the initial two-year limit.