The Congress on Sunday attacked the Centre over its move to issue ordinances by which the tenures of directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate can now be up to a maximum of five years, saying the government has used the two agencies as "henchmen" who are now being rewarded so that "malicious prosecution" is used to silence dissenting voices.
The Directors of CBI and ED enjoy a fixed tenure of two years from the date of their appointment in the wake of the directives of the Supreme Court in the famous Vineet Narain case. According to the two ordinances brought in by the government on Sunday, the tenures of Directors of the CBI and the ED can now be up to a maximum of five years from the present two years.
Reacting to the development, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the Modi government uses ED-CBI as "henchmen to usurp power and destabilise elected governments". Raids by ED and CBI on the Opposition leaders has become a norm, he said.
"Now, these henchmen are being empowered & rewarded with 5 yrs tenure, so that malicious prosecution is used to silence dissenting voices," Surjewala tweeted.
In another tweet, the Congress spokesperson said, "In Modi Govt, the real description of ED-CBI is -: ED = Election Department! CBI = Compromised Bureau of Investigation!" "Naturally, retired officers were being given repeated extension earlier.
Now, a straight five year tenure has been prescribed," he said.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tweeted, "Both ordinances promulgated by NDA/BJP Govt go against Spirit of Jain Hawala judgement that gave stability of tenure to Director CBI & ED to insulate them from Political interference."
"Question -1 why extend the Tenure from 2-5 years? Are they no competent officers left in the Country. Ques. No-2 By hanging the allurement of yearly extensions before people who would occupy these sensitive offices NDA/BJP Govt wants to subvert whatever little is left of institutional integrity of these two Org’s Message is clear Hound the opposition & get extensions," he said in another tweet.
What is even more troublesome is recourse to the ordinance route to subvert the lawmaking function of Parliament repeatedly, the former Union minister said.
"Parliament is tentatively scheduled to meet on 29th November 2021. What was the tearing hurry to promulgate these ordinances on the cusp of Winter Session," he said.
Reacting to the development, another senior Congress leader and spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted, "Double whammy re 5 yr tenures for misused agency heads. Ordinance Raj, the favourite route of the Modi govt, bypasses parliamentary scrutiny 14 days before parliament meets. Extensions per se frowned upon by apex court."
The Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance comes barely three days ahead of the retirement of incumbent Enforcement Directorate chief S K Mishra, a 1984-batch IRS officer. The government had given him an extension of one year in 2020 after the completion of his two years fixed term. The matter was heard by the Supreme Court this year which did not quash the extension, but told the government not to give any further extension to Mishra beyond November 17. However, with the promulgation of the ordinance it remains to be seen whether Mishra would continue as the ED chief or not, officials said.