NGO Association for Democratic Reforms has moved the Supreme Court against Arun Goel’s appointment as Election Commissioner claiming it is arbitrary, and violative of institutional integrity and independence of the poll body.
The NGO has sought the constitution of a “neutral and independent committee” for the appointment of members of the Election Commission.
The plea alleged that the Union government and the ECI have through their acts of “omission and commission” participated in a carefully orchestrated “selection procedure” for their own benefit.
“The writ petition is being filed in public interest challenging the appointment of Sh. Arun Goel as Election Commissioner vide notification dated November 19, 2022, on the ground that the appointment is arbitrary and violative of institutional integrity and independence of Election Commission Of India…,” the plea said.
The top court on March 2 had ruled that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and ECs will be done by the President on the recommendation of a committee, comprising the prime minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and the CJI, to maintain the “purity of election”.
The apex court had said it was mystified as to how bureaucrat Arun Goel applied for voluntary retirement on November 18 last year if he was not aware about the proposal to appoint him as an Election Commissioner.
The top court noted that a vacancy in the post of Election Commissioner arose upon the appointment of Rajiv Kumar as the Chief Election Commissioner with effect from May 15, 2022.
The apex court said the appointment to the post of Election Commissioner was made apparently on the basis that there was no hindrance to the making of the appointment as there was no specific law.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph took note of the submission by the Centre that approval was sought on November 18, 2022 for the appointment of one Election Commissioner and on the very same day, drawing upon the database of IAS officers, serving and retired, in the position of Secretary to the Government of India, it was accessed.
“On the same day, i.e., on November 18, 2022, a note was seen put-up, wherein the Law Minister had suggested the panel of four names for the consideration of the Prime Minister and the President…The appointee, it was noted, was to superannuate in the month of December, 2022 and had taken voluntary retirement, was found to be the youngest of the four members of the panel…Not coming as a surprise, on the same day, his appointment as Election Commissioner was also notified. We are a little mystified as to how the officer had applied for voluntary retirement on November 18, 2022, if he was not in the know about the proposal to appoint him,” the top court said.
The apex court said an appointee to the post of Election Commissioner or Chief Election Commissioner should have a period of six years as laid down in law as it would enable the officer to have enough time to gear himself to the needs of the office and assert his independence.