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Around fortnight before the Parliament is to start its winter session, GoI promulgated two far-reaching ordinances. They empower the government with an option to extend the terms of the heads of CBI and ED, two premier agencies tasked with investigating economic crimes among other things, for a period up to five years from the fixed two-year that has been the norm for a while. In this context, it is relevant to note that the current ED director, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, is already serving an extended term and his third year at the helm will end this week.
Without getting into the details of the ordinance, the fact that GoI promulgated them just before Parliament starts harms both the institution of Parliament and the two premier agencies.
Both CBI and ED have suffered reputational damage across governments because they are perceived to lack sufficient autonomy. This has led to litigation and the Supreme Court devising measures to ring fence the chiefs from unwarranted interference by the political executive.
Any change in the relevant legislations should have been debated in Parliament before effecting the change. Promulgating an ordinance on such a politically sensitive issue a fortnight ahead of a Parliament session only serves to undermine the institution. Past practice shows that governments re-promulgate ordinances even if they don’t get parliamentary approval immediately, thereby effectively sidestepping the checks and balances imposed by the legislature.