"Why the haste? What's the tearing hurry?": Supreme Court questions Centre on EC appointment
New Delhi, Nov 24: The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Centre whether the file related to appointing Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner was cleared in 'haste' and 'in a tearing hurry'.
The appointment of election commissioner Arun Goel has come under scrutiny by the Supreme Court which on Wednesday sought from the Centre the original records pertaining to his appointment for perusal, saying it wanted to know whether there was any "hanky panky".
"Minister of Law picks the names from the list of four names shortlisted... The file was put up on November 18; moves the same day. Even PM recommends the name on the same day. We don't want any confrontation, but was this done in any haste? What's the tearing hurry?" NDTV quoted the five-judge Constitution bench as stating on Thursday.
It added, "This vacancy [became] available on May 15. Show us from May to November, what prevailed upon the government to do things super fast?" The apex court wondered about the process starting and ending on the same day. The court stated, "Not even in 24 hours, the process was completed and notified. What kind of evaluation [was done] here... Although, we are not questioning the merits of Arun Goel's credentials but the process."
Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, said, "I request to look into the issue in entirety." However, the court bluntly stated that it is concerned "If all these four names are carefully chosen, as yes men" and asked how the four names were selected from the officer database of the Department of Personnel.
During the hearing, lawyer Prashant Bhushan attempted to make submissions before the bench when the attorney general was arguing. "Please hold your mouth for a while," PTI quoted the top-most law officer as telling to Bhushan.
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 on attaining the age of 60 years. 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.
The top court reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of ECs and the Chief Election Commissioner and asked the parties to file written submission in five days.
Justice Ajay Rastogi, who is also a part of the bench, told Venkataramani, "You have to listen to the court carefully and answer the questions. We are not on individual candidates but on the process."
The top court on Wednesday rejected Centre's 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, according to a PTI report.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice KM Joseph also observed 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.
With inputs from PTI