Deccan Herald
Ashish Tripathi
New Delhi

The bench said it has nothing against the individual but is concerned with 'the structure of the appointment'

The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Union government over "tearing urgency and haste" in making the appointment of IAS officer Arun Goel as Election Commissioner.

After going through the files related to the appointment of Goel, a bench presided over by Justice K M Joseph objected to criteria adopted by the Law Minister in shortlisting four names from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) database.

Before reserving judgement on a batch of PILs for putting in place a Collegium-like mechanism for appointment of CEC and EC, the bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C T Ravikumar, also noted even among the four names that were shortlisted, the government selected only those who will not get even six years as Election Commissioner. 

"You are required to pick up people who should get six years as EC. Now you haven't picked up such people who will get an ordinary period of six years as EC either. This is a violation of Section 6 of the Chief Election Commissioner & Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991," the bench told Attorney General R Venkataramani.

"We don't have anything against an individual. This man, in fact, is excellent in terms of academics. But we are concerned with the structure of the appointment," the bench added.

The court also pointed out that on November 18, the matter was heard and on the same day, the file was moved and his name was recommended by the Prime Minister.

"Why this urgency? There are four names that you have recommended. I want to understand that out of the vast reservoir of names, how do you actually select a name...Someone who was about to be superannuated in December. He is the youngest among the four names who were recommended. Is that a criteria? How did you select," the bench asked.

The court also sought to know what action the government did take between May 15, when the vacancy in EC arose, and November 18.

"What prevailed upon the government that you did this appointment superfast on one day? Same-day process, same-day clearance, same-day application, same-day appointment. The file has not even travelled 24 hours also. Lightning fast!," the bench asked Venkataramani.

The Attorney General, for his part, submitted we should stop smelling a rat as the government had nothing to hide and the conventions had been followed in the appointment process. "If you start doubting each step, look at the impact on the integrity and independence of the institution called Election Commission of India and the public perception about it," he said.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Anoop Baranwal, attempted to make submissions before the bench when the AG was arguing, provoking the government's law officer.

"Please hold your mouth for a while,” he curtly told Bhushan.

Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appeared for the petitioners namely Anoop Baranwal, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, NGO Association for Democratic Reforms and Dr Jaya Thakur.

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