A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday grilled the central government over the mechanism used for shortlisting of candidates and appointment as Election Commissioner and also questioned the “lightning speed” with which Arun Goel was appointed to the post.
On Wednesday, a bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, and comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar, while hearing a batch of petitions seeking reforms to the process of appointing Election Commissioners, had asked the Attorney General, appearing on behalf of the Centre, to submit files regarding the appointment of Arun Goel as EC within 24 hours.
After the relevant documents were produced before the top court today, the bench observed that the file was cleared by the Centre “at lighting speed” and questioned the haste in Goel’s appointment when the vacancy had existed since May this year.
“Same day process, same day clearance, same day application, same day appointment. File has not even travelled 24 hours also. Lightning fast,” Live Law quoted Justice Joseph as saying.
“According to your submission, this vacancy became available on 15th May. Can you show us from 15th May to 18th November, what did you do? What prevailed upon the government that you did this appointment superfast on one day?” Justice Joseph further questioned Attorney General R Venkataramani.
The AG, however, argued that theit would be incorrect to insinuate that there was an ulterior political motive to Goel’s appointment. “I want to submit that if we want to suggest that the Executive is playing with it because it wants to – The answer is an emphatic NO,” he said.
The bench, however, went on to grill the AG over the mechanism used to shortlist candidates for the Election Commissioner’s post, how the database for such candidatesd was prepared, what were the benchmarks used to shortlist these candidates and why the Law ministry shortlisted only four candidates for the said post.
“Even among the 4 names. You have selected names of people who will not get even 6 years as Election Commissioner. We expect that you would act in such a way that you would comply with the statutory requirements,” the court remarked.
On Wednesday, the court had taken exception to the Centre going ahead with Goel’s appointment when the matter was already being heard by the court. The observation came after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, apprised the court that while the court heard the arguments pertaining to the case last Thursday, he was given voluntary retirement on Friday, appointment order was issued on Saturday or Sunday and Goel assumed charge as Election Commissioner on Monday.