Updated: Wed, 23 Nov 2022 05:46 PM IST
THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday rapped the Centre over the appointment of the new Election Commissioner Arun Goel and directed it to produce the file related to the appointment of the new commissioner. Arun Goel, the second election commissioner was appointed on November 19 this year.
Hearing the matter, the five-judge Constitution bench of the SC headed by Justice K M Joseph said it wants to know whether there was any "hanky panky" in Goel's appointment as election commissioner as he was only recently given voluntary retirement from service.
The bench also rejected the objections of Attorney General R Venkataramani on the court's willingness to see the file related to Goel's appointment while the hearing is on.
Justice Joseph told Attorney General R Venkataramani, "Produce the files of appointment of this officer... you say there is no hanky-panky in this. Was he appointed on the basis of voluntary retirement... how was he appointed, what is the mechanism by which he was picked up... the matter is being heard".
He told the AG if there is no illegality "then you shouldn't be afraid and "if everything is going on smoothly, then show us the file". As the AG said, "I don't think we have to travel that far", Justice Joseph said the court will not sit in judgment on appointment and "we want to see that file unless you claim some privilege, we want to see how things work".
The bench said it started hearing a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of ECs and the CEC last Thursday and Goel was appointed as an EC subsequently on November 19. Therefore, it wants to see what prompted the step.
"We want to see what is the mechanism. We will not treat it as an adversarial and keep it for our record, but we want to know as you claim that everything is hunky dory. Since we were hearing the matter and appointment was made amidst, this may be interlinked. You have time till tomorrow. Produce the documents," it told the AG.
At the outset, Bhushan, who appeared on behalf of petitioner Anoop Baranwal and made his rejoinder submission, said after the court started hearing the matter, the government hurriedly appointed an election commissioner. "This election commissioner was, till Thursday, working as a secretary-level officer in the government. Suddenly, he was given VRS on Friday and appointed as an election commissioner," Bhushan said.
Justice Joseph said as far he recalls, it takes three months for a person to get voluntary retirement. On November 19, Goel, a 1985-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Punjab cadre, was appointed as an election commissioner. He was to retire on December 31 attaining the age of 60 years.
Once he assumes his new role, Goel would be in line to be the next CEC after incumbent Rajiv Kumar demits office in February 2025. He will join Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey on the poll panel. There was a vacancy in the Election Commission (EC) following the retirement of previous CEC Sushil Chandra in May.
Goel was the secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries till recently and his voluntary retirement came into effect on November 18. He has also served in the Union culture ministry.
(With Agencies Inputs)