Brushing aside the contention of the Centre that there was no need for the court to examine the file on individual appointment and it should confine itself to the larger issue, a bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar said the government should not be apprehensive about submitting the file if there was no “hanky-panky” in Goel’s appointment process.
“You produce the file on appointment of the officer. If there is no hanky-panky then you should not fear producing the file. He was appointed when the matter was being considered by the court and when the application (to restrain the Centre from sppointing him) was pending,” the bench said.
“Make available the file. We would like to go through it. We want to see for our satisfaction. It would be an eye opener for us and it would be advantageous to you also as we would come to know about the procedure for appointment,” the bench said.
The court asked the attorney general to place the file on Thursday when it will resume hearing the case.
The Constitution bench of the court commenced hearing on November 17 on a batch of pleas seeking that the appointment of the CEC and ECs be done by an independent panel and not by the government to ensure independence and impartiality of the functioning of the commission. On that day itself, advocate Prasahnt Bhushan informed the court that he had filed an interim application seeking to restrain the Centre not to fill the vacant post of the CEC till the case is decided by the bench.
Bhushan informed the court that Goel, who was till November 17 working as a secretary-level officer in the government, was given VRS on November 18, just a day after the SC started hearing the case. He was appointed election commissioner on November 19.
The bench said an officer had to serve a three-month notice period before being granted VRS.
Attorney general R Venkataramani said there was “no design” behind Goel’s appointment. He also said that there was no injunction on making the appointment and the court should not get into this issue.
As the Centre earlier raised the issue of over-reaching, the bench in a lighter vein said, “It is not a case of over-reaching but over-reading the mind of the court”.