Home / News / India /  Election Commissioner Arun Goel's file got clearances in 'haste', 'tearing hurry': SC

The Supreme Court of India perused the original file of Election Commissioner Arun Goel's appointment on Thursday and said the file was cleared in "haste" and with a "tearing hurry". 

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.

"What kind of evaluation is this? Although, we are not questioning the merits of Arun Goel’s credentials but the process," a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph said.

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".

The appointment of Goel came under scrutiny by the top court which 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 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.

The five-judge bench headed by Justice KM Joseph asked Attorney General R Venkataramani on Wednesday, "Do you think the election commissioner, if he is asked to take on none less than the Prime minister, we are saying it as an example, can he say no?".

Justice Joseph pressed further, saying “Suppose for example, there are some allegations against the Prime Minister and the CEC has to act but he does not act. Will it not be a case of complete breakdown of the system?"

“The CEC should be insulated from political influence and needs to be independent and person of character. These are aspects which you have to delve into...why we require an independent larger body for selection and not just the union council of ministers," the bench said.

It told Venkataramani that several reports of the law commission and committees have said there is need for electoral reforms in the Election Commission.

Justice Joseph said he does not remember the particulars but there was an instance when one of the election commissioners had resigned. "There is a need for a panel and not the council of ministers to recommend the names. There is a need for a change," he observed.

The remarks by the top court came a day after it termed the "exploitation of the silence of the Constitution" and the absence of a law governing the appointments of election commissioners and chief election commissioners a "disturbing trend".

The court flagged Article 324 of the Constitution, which talks about the appointment of election commissioners, and said it does not provide the procedure for such appointments. The Constitution envisaged the enactment of a law by Parliament in this regard, which has not been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Centre, it said on Tuesday.

Venkataramani, however, insisted the current system does not require a change as petitioners have not provided any instance where it can be said that the commission has not acted in a free and fair manner.

"The mechanism (of appointment by the government) is so robust that no one can go rogue except for stray incidents. These stray incidents cannot be a ground for the court to interfere. To safeguard the position is our endeavor," he said.

He added there exists a system under which track records of secretaries and chief secretaries, both retired and serving, are maintained in the database of the Department of Personnel and Training. The bench said it is nowhere suggesting that the system is not correct but there is the need for a transparent mechanism. Venkataramani said merely the likelihood or apprehension of any wrongdoing does not call for the interference of the court. The Election Commission of India, despite not being a party in any of the petitions, also intervened, saying any change in the existing system will amount to amending the constitution. The top court is hearing a clutch of petitions seeking among other things a collegium-like system for the appointment of ECs and CEC.

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