The Supreme Court today questioned what was the “haste of tears” for the “super fast” appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as Election Commissioner, while the public prosecutor asked the court to “shut its mouth” and requested asked him to look into the matter. “In entirety”.
A five-judge Constitution bench – with some scathing remarks on procedure for the third day in a row – today went straight to Arun Goel’s files, which it had sought yesterday, on how the commissioner despite government’s objection to a “mini trial” within the larger case are selected.
The court said: “The Law Minister has chosen names from a list of four names shortlisted… The file was placed on November 18, moves on the same day. Even the PM recommends names on the same day.” We don’t.” Someone wanted a confrontation, but was it done in haste? What’s the rush to tear it down?”
It states, “This vacancy [became] Available 15 May. Show us from May to November, what was the pressure on the government to work super fast?” It said the process was “started and completed on the same day.” And notified. What kind of assessment [was done] Here… however, we are not questioning the credentials of Arun Goyal but the process.”
Attorney General R Venkataramani, on behalf of the Central government, responded saying, “Please keep your mouth shut for a while. I request to look into the issue thoroughly.”
But the court further remarked, “We are clarifying. If all these four names are carefully selected, as yes men – we are concerned with the process of selection,” the department officials shortlisting the four names from the database Personnel asking about.
A bench headed by Justice KM Joseph yesterday said it wanted to know whether there was any “hanky panky” in the appointment of Arun Goel as he was recently given voluntary retirement and immediately appointed to the Election Commission.
After completing the hearing today, it reserved its order on the petitions seeking collegium-like system for appointments to the Election Commission.
It said that as per law, the government has to ensure that the person holding the post completes a six-year term. The top court said it is “struggling” to find out the reasons why the law minister selected a panel of four names who were not completing the prescribed six-year term as they were above 65 years of age. before the age of retirement from the election body.
According to the commission’s website, Arun Goyal has taken charge on this Monday, 21 November. A 1985 batch IAS officer of the Punjab cadre, he retired as Secretary, Union Ministry of Heavy Industries after over 37 years of service. He is now next in line to become the Chief Election Commissioner after Rajeev Kumar leaves office in February 2025.
The appointment was cited by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who pointed out that Mr Goyal was made part of the three-member Election Commission – apart from chiefs Rajeev Kumar and AC Pandey – after the big issue came up for hearing last week.
The court overruled the objections of Attorney General R Venkataramani, who said it was not right to raise personal matters.
“We will not consider it adversarial and keep it for our records, but as you claim everything is correct, we want to know,” the court said.
Clear about the independence of such officers, the court yesterday offered a “hypothesis” to the central government: “Do you think the Election Commissioner…if he is asked to take no less than the Prime Minister – it Just one example – and he does not come to: would it not be a case of a complete breakdown of the system?”
It also pointed out how “one election commissioner actually resigned”. The court did not take the name, but argued at its central point that the appointment system requires “a larger body” than just the Union cabinet to decide on names. “Change is desperately needed.”
The court pointed out how Article 324 of the Constitution – on the appointment of election commissioners – does not spell out a process. This article envisages a law by Parliament to define the procedure, but it has not been made in the last 72 years.
The government has cited a 1991 law and previous conventions of the appointment, which is recommended by the PM-led cabinet to the president, who then chooses an official. “Small instance cannot be a ground for interference by the court. It is our endeavor to protect the status quo,” submitted the counsel for the government.
“First a list of all senior bureaucrats is prepared. And then the list is sent to the law ministry, which is then sent to the PM,” explained the lawyer, adding, “The current system is working fine and there is no trigger point.” Is. for the intervention of the court. ,
The court insisted that it was not saying that the system was not correct. “There should be a transparent mechanism,” it added.