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The Supreme Court, whilst hearing the appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as Election Commissioner (EC), said the country needs ECs who would not shrink from taking on even the Prime Minister and are not “weak-kneed” yes-men. Separately, it stated ECs should be the one willing to risk their lives and not docile “yes-men” who the Government knows would do their bidding.
The Court repeatedly asked how the Government had appointed Mr Goel as Election Commissioner when an application questioning the prolonged vacancy was pending before the Constitution Bench. The appointment was made immediately after Thursday’s hearing on the need for “neutral and independent mechanism” for the appointment of ECs. Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that Mr Goel took voluntary retirement that day and the appointment was made on Saturday for Mr Goel to assume charge from Monday.
The apex court gave the Government 24 hours to produce Mr Goel’s file of appointment. “If you are in the clear and there is no hanky-panky, there is nothing to fear...You have any problem producing his file?” Justice K.M. Joseph asked Attorney General R. Venkataramani.
Justice Joseph also clarified the Court was not sitting to judge the appointment. “We just want to see how you got it done,” he stated.
The 1985-batch IAS officer’s appointment was to fill the third and final vacancy in the Election Commission of India (ECI). The position had been lying vacant since former Commissioner Rajiv Kumar was elevated to be the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). Mr Goel has served as the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Urban Developed Authority and Culture Secretary among other positions before his recent retirement as a Secretary of the Ministry of Heavy Industries.
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