The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Centre’s haste in appointing former IAS officer Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner. He said he was not questioning the credibility of the newly appointed Election Commission but the process through which it was appointed.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, after perusing the original Centre’s file on Goel’s appointment, said, “What kind of assessment is this? However, we are not going to look at the merit of Arun Goel’s credentials but at the process.” raising questions.”
The bench pointed out that the file did not even move within the departments for 24 hours, and questioned the ‘lightning speed’ with which Goyal was appointed EC. The court noted that the IAS officer took voluntary retirement from his service on the same day, the Law Ministry cleared the file on the same day, a panel of four names was placed before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Goel’s name was cleared. Granted by the President – all within 24 hours.
The bench noted that none of the four names in the panel were ‘carefully selected’ by the Law Minister.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, said there is a mechanism and the government cannot look into every name and check the track record of every officer.
The Center strongly protested the comments. It urged the apex court not to comment without considering the entire issue of Goyal’s appointment.
The court was hearing petitions seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of election commissioners. Justice Ajay Rastogi told Attorney General Venkataramani that there are no individual candidates but the process is on and the Center has to answer questions carefully.
Venkataramani said Goyal’s profile is important and not his voluntary retirement which is being made an issue.
Goyal’s appointment as the Election Commission came under scrutiny, and the court said it wanted to know whether there was any ‘hanky panky’, on Wednesday. She said she wanted to know if everything was ‘hunky dory’ in the hiring process.
Goyal, a Punjab cadre IAS officer, was appointed as the Election Commissioner on November 19. He was Secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and his voluntary retirement was effective on 18 November. He has also worked in the Union Ministry of Culture.
(With PTI inputs)
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