Arun Goel: Apart from some sharp comments and questions about the appointment process for the Election Commission of India, the Supreme Court has now requested specific files: On the appointment of Arun Goel to the Commission on November 19. On Thursday, the hearing will continue.
As he was only recently given voluntary retirement and immediately appointed to the poll body, the Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph wants to know if there was any hanky panky involved in the appointment.
In the hearing of a batch of petitions on the appointment process, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan mentioned Arun Goel’s appointment. Last week, Mr Bhushan emphasized that Mr Goel, a recently-retired IAS officer, was appointed to the three-member Election Commission – along with Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey.
Arun Goel was working in the government as a secretary until Thursday. Last Friday, he was given VRS and appointed an election commissioner,” Mr Bhushan said. Otherwise, he would have retired on December 31 at the age of 60.
Attorney General R Venkataramani’s objections that it wasn’t right to pursue individual cases were rejected by the court.
It will not be an adversarial hearing, but we want to know what the mechanism is as you claim everything is fine… You have until tomorrow,” the court told the government lawyer.
According to the commission’s website, Arun Goel took charge only on November 21. After more than 37 years of service, he retired as Secretary, Union Ministry of Heavy Industry, as an IAS officer from the 1985 batch.
Upon Rajiv Kumar’s resignation in February 2025, he will become Chief Election Commissioner.
“Hanky panky” checks come at a time when the court has been quite critical of the entire process.
SC to Govt: Show us EC Arun Goel’s appointment file, if no hanky panky, don’t fear
As part of its discussion of independence, the court today proposed a “hypothesis” for the central government: “Do you think the Election Commissioner will be able… If he is asked to take on none less than the Prime Minister, and he doesn’t agree: Will it not be a complete breakdown of the system?”
Furthermore, “one of the Election Commissioners resigned”. As a result, the court did not take names, rather arguing that the appointment system requires “a larger body” than just the union cabinet. Change is urgently needed.”
A court has already noted that Article 324 of the Constitution does not outline a procedure for the appointment of election commissioners. In the past 72 years, no law has been passed by Parliament to define the process.
Among the government’s arguments are a 1991 law and past conventions of appointment, which are recommended by the PM-led cabinet to the President, who then chooses an officer. The court cannot interfere with stray instances. Today, the government’s lawyer submitted a submission to safeguard the position.
A list of all senior bureaucrats is first prepared, then sent to the Law Ministry, and then to the PM,” explained the lawyer, adding, “The existing system is working fine, and the court has no trigger point for intervention.”
The court stressed that it was not criticizing the system. A transparent mechanism should be in place, it said.
The government lawyer argued further, “We cannot show every single file how the appointment was made, so the court cannot interfere in the system.” You need to show instances wherein some wrong has occurred. A court’s interference cannot be justified by mere likelihood, anxiety, or apprehension.”
As a result, the court has requested the files on a specific appointment – that of Arun Goel, the latest pick.
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