The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Centre’s haste in appointing ex-IAS officer Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner. It said that it was not questioning the newly-appointed EC’s credentials but the process through which he was appointed.
"What kind of evaluation is this? Although, we are not questioning the merits of Arun Goel's credentials but the process,” said the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph after perusing the Centre’s original file pertaining to Goel’s appointment.
The bench pointed out that the file did not even move within departments for 24 hours, and questioned the ‘lightning speed’ with which Goel was appointed EC. The court pointed out that the IAS officer got voluntary retirement from his service in a single day, the file was cleared by the Law Ministry in a single day, a panel of four names were put up before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Goel’s name was approved by the President – all within 24 hours.
The bench said that none of the four names in the panel were ‘carefully hand-picked’ by the Law Minister.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, who was appearing for the Centre said that there is a mechanism in place and that the government cannot look into every name and check every officer’s track record.
The Centre vehemently resisted the observations. It urged the apex court to not make observations without going through the entire issue of Goel’s appointment.
The court was hearing pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of ECs. Justice Ajay Rastogi told Attorney General Venkataramani that there are no individual candidates but on the process and that the Centre has to answer the questions carefully.
Venkataramani said that Goel’s profile is important and not his voluntary retirement which is being made an issue.
Goel’s appointment as the EC came under scrutiny, and the court said it wanted to know if there was any ‘hanky panky’, on Wednesday. It said it wants to know if everything was ‘hunky dory’ in the appointment process.
Goel, a Punjab cadre IAS officer, was appointed as Election Commissioner on November 19. He was the secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and his voluntary retirement came into effect on November 18. He has also served in the Union culture ministry.
(With PTI inputs)
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