‘There was no one to listen…’ Former CEC said on appointment in EC, said- Government acted in haste

(Nivedita Singh)
New Delhi.
The appointment of Arun Goyal as Election Commissioner has created controversy. The Supreme Court wants to see the file related to the appointment of Goyal and this process has been termed by the apex court as ‘lightning fast (very hasty)’. Although the apex court is currently looking into the matter, former election commissioners have argued in favor of the fact that the election commission’s appointment process should be reformed.

Manohar Singh Gill, who served as the Chief Election Commissioner for a six-year term between 1996 and 2001, said that he has been making this demand continuously since his tenure. Speaking to News18, Gill said, ‘There is a question of appointments in the Election Commission and it should be reviewed and resolved. I was the CEC for the entire 6 years, I also raised the issue of such appointments (appointments in the Election Commission). But there was no one to listen.

He said that ‘I am happy that the Supreme Court is now looking into this matter’. Gill said, ‘Now let the court settle this matter. I am glad that this matter will now give a settled result. Situations will change. I can see The Supreme Court will do something.

‘Why the hurry?’
Shahabuddin Yakub Qureshi, who served as the Chief Election Commissioner between 2010 and 2012, echoed Gill’s views. He said, “Goyal has been appointed in a hurry because the government feels that the Supreme Court may issue new guidelines regarding the appointment.”

Qureshi told News18, ‘There is no rule for appointments in the Election Commission. The government suggests names to the President and through this the vacant posts are being filled. The main petition filed in the Supreme Court demands rules regarding appointments in the Election Commission. The government has shown haste because it realized that if the rules become law, there may be a need for consultation on a large scale in appointments. Qureshi also said that Goyal’s appointment was ‘lightning fast’ as the government wanted to save itself.

Another former Chief Election Commissioner, on the condition of anonymity, said that ‘to my notice, no case like the appointment of Goyal has come before, when an appointment has been made in such a hurry’.

The former Chief Election Commissioner said, ‘This is not the first time that questions have been raised on the appointment in the Election Commission. The question has been raised many times before as well. The fact is that not only in the Election Commission, but also in other constitutional institutions, questions have been raised regarding the appointment and this is normal in a democracy. This matter is now under the court. Who am I to comment on this, but I cannot remember any instance when such appointments were made overnight. And that too on a post which has been vacant for a long time.

Qureshi said the hasty appointment would have looked more logical had it been done before the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly elections were announced.

He said, ‘The general understanding is that the big elections of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are almost over and there is no point in showing such haste in the appointments for the government. This post was lying vacant for the last 6 months and he did not show any haste but now suddenly in a hurry the post was filled in 1 day. Perhaps they must have understood that the Supreme Court can change the rules regarding appointments or make procedures.

Let us tell you that one post in the three-member Election Commission was lying vacant since May this year. Qureshi said that the government has got trapped through this appointment. He said, ‘Half the election is done and they suddenly realized that the appointment should be done within a day. No one is stupid. The court has every right to question.

However, another former CEC expressed a different view on the condition of anonymity. The former official said that the procedure has been followed in the appointment of the Election Commission. He said, ‘There is a process for every appointment, when it comes to the Election Commission, even the Prime Minister is involved. Those who are questioning the process, they do not know about the process. It is wrong to question such appointments.

What is the matter after all?
In fact, on November 18, 1985 batch IAS officer Arun Goyal was given voluntary retirement. Just a day after this, on November 19, the President appointed him as the Election Commissioner. On 21 November, Goyal took over his post. And on November 23, the Supreme Court asked the Central Government to present the original file of Goyal’s appointment as Election Commissioner.

Let us tell you that a 5-member constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is hearing petitions demanding reforms in the process related to the appointment of members of the Election Commission.

On November 24, the Supreme Court had reserved its decision on the matter and asked the concerned parties to file written arguments within 5 days. Although the Supreme Court had said that it was not against the appointment of Goyal, but only against the process.

Tags: election commission, supreme court

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