The Central government on Monday issued a Gazette notification with respect to extending the tenure of Defence Secretary, Home Secretary, Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Secretary of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for the period of two years.
The notification reads that the Central Government may, “if it considers necessary in the public interest so to do, give extension in service to the Defence Secretary, Home Secretary, Director of Intelligence Bureau, Secretary of Research and Analysis Wing and Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) appointed under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946) and Director of Enforcement in the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) appointed under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 (45 of 2003) in the Central Government for such period or periods as it may deem proper on a case-to-case basis for reasons to be recorded in writing, subject to the condition that the total term of such Secretaries or Directors, as the case may be, who are given such extension in service under this rule, does not exceed two years or the period provided in the respective Act or rules made thereunder, under which their appointments are made”. In 2005, the Union Cabinet had cleared a fixed tenure of two years for Defence Secretary, Home Secretary and Chiefs of Intelligence Bureau and RAW. On Sunday, President Ram Nath Kovind had promulgated two ordinances allowing the Centre to extend the tenures of the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years.
Meanwhile, the Congress, through its national spokesperson and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, launched a strong attack on the Union government questioning its intent to bring in ordinances to increase the tenure of the Director of Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Singhvi, a three-time Member of Parliament and a member of the Rajya Sabha committee of Privileges, said the BJP-led NDA government was subverting the various institutions of democracy, including the Parliament and raised five questions while addressing the media at the Congress headquarters: “What was the public interest in bringing this ordinance? Does not the ordinance ignore, insult and decimate the recent Supreme Court order which had said that the extension of retiring officers should only be done in rare circumstances and for a short time? Has not the government undermined the parliamentary privileges by bringing an ordinance when the parliament session was just two weeks away? The biased performance of these two institutions in the last seven years and why did the government not bring an ordinance that allowed fixed tenure rather than one year at a time extensions?”
The Winter session of Parliament that starts from 29 November is likely to witness chaotic scenes over these developments. The TMC on Monday moved two statutory resolutions in the Rajya Sabha, objecting to these ordinances brought by the government.
“The BJP is consistently and intentionally engaged in undermining and sabotaging the institutions and creating security for themselves and the establishment instead of security for the nation. The ordinances are another example in that direction. These ordinances take these institutions from discipline and upholding the rule of law to dutifulness to their political masters,” Singhvi claimed while terming the CBI as a “Credibility Bereft Institution.”
Singhvi stated that the ordinances were brought in violation of the Supreme Court’s directions and meant only to misuse the probe agencies. “Why have been these Ordinances brought just 15 days before the Parliament session? Isn’t this an attempt to bypass Parliament and continue the ignominious trend of Ordinance Raj established by this government since 2014,” he asked. Singhvi said the recent move by the government was “an attempt to sabotage, sidestep and skirt the institution of Parliament; attempt to substitute servility and subordination to political masters in place of independence.”
In May this year, the government extended the tenure of R&AW chief Samant Kumar Goel and IB head Arvind Kumar by one year. The tenure of both the officers was due to end on June 30. Goel, a 1984-batch IPS officer, was appointed as R&AW chief on 27 June 2019, while Kumar assumed the position on 26 June 2019. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla was also given an extension of one year beyond his tenure on 12 August 2021.
In 2005, the Union Cabinet had cleared a fixed tenure of two years for Defence Secretary, Home Secretary and Chiefs of Intelligence Bureau and R&AW. The development affecting ED and CBI comes just two months after the Supreme Court ruled that extensions beyond the date of superannuation of an individual should be rare, in exceptional cases only. The apex court had asked the Centre not to further extend the tenure of current ED director Sanjay Kumar Mishra, whose already extended tenure ends in a week’s time.
The decision of the court in September had come on a petition filed by NGO Common Cause which challenged the government’s decision of 13 November 2020 to retrospectively grant an extension to Mishra by converting his original tenure of two years beginning November 19, 2018 into a three-year one.