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‘If everything is hunky-dory… ‘: SC asks Centre to submit files related to EC Arun Goel's appointment

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New Delhi, Nov 23: The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday to submit files relating to the appointment of Arun Goel as the new Election Commissioner, as it wanted to see if everything was "hunky-dory".

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph also rejected its objections to its order for producing the original records and said it wants to know whether everything was "hunky dory" in the appointment process as claimed by the government, as Goel was only recently given voluntary retirement from service. The Centre was given time till Thursday to produce the files.

Newly appointed Election Commissioner Arun Goel

"There is a need for the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to be independent and person of character, and posed a hypothetical question asking will it not be a case of complete breakdown of the system if the CEC does not act if there are some allegations against a prime minister," the court observed.

Former bureaucrat Arun Goel assumes charge as Election CommissionerFormer bureaucrat Arun Goel assumes charge as Election Commissioner

"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 asked after the Centre claimed that its present system of appointment of Election Commissioners and the Chief Election Commissioner appointed on the basis of seniority by convention has been "fairly doing well".

"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 (Election Commission)?" "The CEC should be insulated from political influence and needs to be independent and person of character. These are aspects on which you have to delve into on why we require an independent larger body for selection and not just the union council of ministers," the bench also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar said.

On the appointment of Goel, a 1985 batch IAS officer, the court said it is only looking into the mechanism and see whether everything was according to the process. Goel, who would be in line to be the next CEC after incumbent Rajiv Kumar demits office in February 2025, was appointed as an EC on November 19.

"We want to know whether there was any hanky panky in the appointment of this man. We are not concerned about any other thing," the court said, as it rejected the objections put forth by Attorney General R Venkataramani over its insistence on going through the file while it was hearing the larger issue of appointment of election commissioners and chief election commissioner.

Opposition parties took the opportunity and accused the BJP government of weakening the three-member Election Commission, and raised doubts over the selection of poll panel members.

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