Rajya Sabha passes Bills setting maximum 5-year tenure for CBI, ED chiefs

New Delhi: Parliament Tuesday passed two Bills to extend the tenure of the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to a maximum of five years from the earlier minimum period of two years.

Rajya Sabha approved the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2021, by voice vote in the absence of the Opposition, which walked out earlier in the day to protest the suspension of 12 members.
The two laws now replace the Ordinances promulgated by the Ministry of Law and Justice last month.

The amendments have been hotly contested by the Opposition, which has questioned the need for the extension of tenure for these positions.

Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said the clause on tenure which says “not less than two years” is just being amended to “go up to five years” with a one-year extension on each occasion.

Singh said the amendments were actually “fixing the upper limit of the tenure” of the chiefs more than being in the nature of extensions. “According to the present clause, the heads have a minimum two- year tenure. But there is no maximum limit set on the tenure — this has now been done and clarified that the heads of these organisations cannot stay longer than 5 years. In the past, there have been so many in the post who have served for far longer than two years, but without a proper process being in place,” said the minister.

He justified its need by saying that India has among the shortest tenures globally for an investigative agency head.

“I wish the other honorable members who have in their wisdom decided to abstain from this discussion were present to discuss such an important Bill as its importance cuts across party lines,” he said.

Singh added that the Opposition looked “guilty” after having walked out instead of remaining in the House to discuss the Bills. ”What is the motive of those who decided to abstain and shy away from the discussion. It has been mentioned that some people are scared by even hearing the name ED. It looks like those who are scared are also the ones who oppose the Bills.’’
AIADMK’s M Thambidurai, JD(U)’s Ram Nath Thakur, Tamil Maanila Congress (M) leader GK Vasan, Telugu Desam Party member K Ravindra Kumar, former union minister Suresh Prabhu, JD(U) member Sushil Modi, and BJP’s Rakesh Sinha and GVL Narasimha Rao all spoke in favour of the Bill.

Rising to support the Bills, BJD’s Amar Patnaik said the government should ensure that agencies were independent and accountable. “These should be robust, unbiased, effective and fair investigating agencies. There have been allegations of motivated action. If there is no accountability of the organization, then there will be corruption within the organization. The action taken by these agencies should be independent and fair, and should also appear to be fair to the people of the country,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)