Centre places original file of appointment of EC Arun Goel before SC
SC on Wednesday sought from the Centre the original records pertaining to his appointment for perusal, saying it wanted to know whether there was any "hanky-panky"
A 5-judge bench hearing batch of petitions on EC appointments
New Delhi: Centre placed original file of appointment of Election Commissioner Arun Goel before the constitution bench of Supreme Court on Thursday.
During the day-long hearing on the batch of pleas seeking collegium-like system for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner on Wednesday, the appointment of Election Commissioner Arun Goel also came under scrutiny by the top court which sought from the Centre the original records pertaining to his appointment for perusal, saying it wanted to know whether there was any "hanky-panky".
The apex court was of the view that any ruling party at the Centre "likes to perpetuate itself in power'' and can appoint a 'Yes Man' to the post under the current system.
The court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of Election Commissioners (ECs) and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
The Centre argued that a 1991 Act ensured the Election Commission remains independent in terms of salary and tenure to its members and there is no "trigger point'' which warrants interference from the court.
It said that the mechanism adopted for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner is seniority among the election commissioners, who are appointed by convention from secretary or chief secretary level officers of the Centre and state level, respectively.
The bench said the independence of the institution should be ensured at the threshold for which the appointment should be scanned at the entry level.
"Each ruling political party at the Centre likes to perpetuate itself in power. Now, what we want to do is concentrate on the consultative process for the appointment of CEC and the inclusion of the Chief Justice of India in the process would ensure the independence of the commission," the bench said.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, pointed out that the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 was a watershed moment that ensured independence in salary and tenure of ECs.
"The law was passed by Parliament after the report from the Dinesh Goswami committee. So, it cannot be said that there was no application of mind. The law provides and ensures that the commission remains independent in terms of salary and tenure of its members which are intrinsic features for the independence of an institution," he said.
The bench told Venkataramani the 1991 law only deals with terms of a service condition which is evident from its very name.
"Suppose the government appoints a 'Yes Man', who has the same philosophy and is like-minded. The law provides him all the immunity in tenure and salary, then there is no so-called independence in the institution. This is an election commission, where independence should be ensured at the threshold," the bench said.
Venktaramani said there are various facets of independence and salary and fixed tenure are some of them.
"There is no trigger point which warrants interference from the court. It is not the case that there was some vacancy and it is not being filled or there is some arbitrariness which warrants court's interference in the process," he said.