'Tearing urgency, lightning speed', SC questions Centre on appointment of Election Commissioner
New Delhi, November 24, 2022
The Supreme Court on Thursday grilled Attorney General R. Venkataramani, representing the Centre, on the appointment of Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner, asking what was the "tearing urgency, haste", and why was the appointment made at a "lightning speed".
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K. M. Joseph after examining the file on Goel's appointment, also questioned on the criteria adopted by the Law Minister in shortlisting four names from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) database.
The bench shot a volley of questions at the AG to which he contended that court should not hold a mini-trial on the appointment, however the bench asked him to explain why the appointment was made with such haste.
"Same-day process, same-day clearance, same-day appointment, lightning speed, what kind of evaluation?" the bench asked.
Justice Joseph specifically questioned the AG on the criteria adopted by the Law Minister in picking four names from the DoPT's database.
The bench noted that the Minister picked the names and the file was put up on November 18 and moved the same day.
The bench told the AG: "Even the Prime Minister recommends the name on the same day. We don't want any confrontation..."
It further pointed out that the post was vacant since May 15, and asked the AG to show what prevailed on the government to do things at this lightning speed.
Justice Joseph reiterated that the court is concerned about a "yes man" being appointed and asked what is the basis of the Law Minister shortlisting four names from data of hundreds of people following the age criteria.
Questioning Goel's appointment in a super-fast manner, the bench remarked that in not even 24 hours, the process was completed and notified.
The top court is hearing a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of the Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
The hearing is in progress now.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Centre that it wants to see the files relating to Goel's recent appointment and emphasized that it wants to see by what mechanism, "he was picked up", and "there is no danger to produce it (files)".