Is entire dept full of incompetent people, asks SC as Centre seeks extension in ED director’s tenure

New Delhi:┬áThe Supreme Court on Thursday lambasted the Centre for seeking an extension in the tenure of Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra till October 15, and asked if the entire department is “full of incompetent people” except the incumbent chief.

“Are we not giving a picture that there is no other person and the entire department is full of incompetent people?” a bench headed by Justice B R Gavai told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The top law officer argued before the bench, also comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, that the continuity of the ED leadership is necessary in view of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) peer review whose rating matters.

“Are we not giving a picture that there is no other person and the entire department is full of incompetent people?” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

SG Mehta said the continuity of the ED director was necessary in view of the FATF review and its rating.

“Some neighbouring countries want India to fall into FATF’s ‘grey list’ and therefore, the ED chief’s continuity is necessary,” Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said, PTI reported.

Mishra’s term will end on July 31 after the Supreme Court, in a verdict on July 11, gave him time till month end to relinquish office.

In the verdict, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, held the two extensions granted to Mishra as illegal and asked him to demit office by July 31.

The 1984-batch IRS officer was slated to remain in office till November 18, 2023, according to the notification issued by the government.

Sanjay Mishra was first appointed the ED director for a period of two years in November 2018. In November 2022, Mishra was granted a second tenure extension up to November 18, 2023.

The Supreme Court order came on a clutch of petitions, including those filed by Jaya Thakur of Congress and Mahua Moitra of the TMC.

In a written response, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that the petions challenging the extension of tenure of ED chief was filed with the intention of protecting Congress leaders who were facing money laundering charges.