“What kind of evaluation is this. We are not questioning merits of EC Arun Goel’s credentials but the process of his appointment,” the Supreme Court said. The apex court noted that the vacancy of EC arose on May 15 and Goel’s file was cleared with “lightning speed”.
As the apex court observed that the file pertaining to Goel’s appointment was cleared with “lightning speed”, the Centre through Attorney General R Venkataramani asked the court to “hold its mouth” and requested it to look into the matter in its entirety.
The top-most law officer told the bench, which was making a volley a comments on the issue, “Please hold your mouth for a while. I request to look into the issue in entirety”.
It perused the original file of Goel’s appointment as an EC, which was placed before the bench by the Centre in pursuance of Wednesday’s direction given by the top court.
The bench said 1985-batch IAS officer Goel got voluntary retirement from service in a single day, his file was cleared by the Law Ministry in a single day, a panel of four names were put up before the prime minister and Goel’s name got the nod from the President within 24 hours.
Goel’s appointment had come under scrutiny by the top court which earlier sought from the Centre the original records pertaining to his appointment for perusal, saying it wanted to know whether there was any “hanky-panky”.
The court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of Election Commissioners (ECs) and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
The apex court was of the view that any ruling party at the Centre “likes to perpetuate itself in power” and can appoint a ‘Yes Man’ to the post under the current system. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph emphasised that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners should be “procedure based and transparent”.
The Centre earlier argued that a 1991 Act ensured the Election Commission remains independent in terms of salary and tenure to its members and there is no “trigger point” which warrants interference from the court.
It said that the mechanism adopted for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner is seniority among the election commissioners, who are appointed by convention from secretary or chief secretary level officers of the Centre and state level, respectively.
(With agency inputs)