Owaisi seeks Centre’s explanation on Arun Goel’s resignation ahead of LS polls

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Sunday, March 10, sought answers from the BJP-led Centre on the circumstances around election commissioner Arun Goel’s resignation on Saturday, March 9.

“It’s very shocking, when the Election Commission of India is going to announce the schedule on any day after March 13, and just before that Election Commissioner Arun Goel resigns. I have said in the parliament that govt is going against the Supreme Court and changing the method of the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners. If out of three people who are there to appoint them, two are from the govt, it’s obvious that the govt will place their own people in that position. Supreme Court has said that the govt shouldn’t have the majority in that committee… It’s him (Arun Goel) or the govt itself should tell the reason that why this happened just before the election.”

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Election Commissioner Arun Goel resigns ahead of Lok Sabha polls

The development came days before the expected announcement of the schedule for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Goel’s tenure was till December 5, 2027, and he would have become Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) after incumbent Rajiv Kumar retired in February next year.

According to a law ministry notification, Goel’s resignation has been accepted by President Droupadi Murmu with effect from Saturday. It was not immediately known why he stepped down.

Goel, a retired bureaucrat, was a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Punjab cadre. He had joined the Election Commission in November 2022.

Following the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey in February and Goel’s resignation, the three-member EC has now only one member: CEC Rajiv Kumar.

According to the new law on appointment of CEC and ECs, a search committee headed by the law minister and comprising two union secretaries will shortlist five names.

Then a selection committee — headed by the prime minister and comprising a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the PM, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the House — picks one name.

The CEC or EC then gets appointed by the President.

Ashok Lavasa had resigned as election commissioner in August 2020. He had given dissent notes on various model code violations decisions taken by the EC in the last Lok Sabha polls.

Originally, the commission had only a CEC. It currently consists of the CEC and two election commissioners.

Two additional commissioners were first appointed on October 16, 1989, but they had a very short tenure till January 1, 1990. Later, on October 1, 1993, two additional election commissioners were appointed.

The concept of a multi-member EC has been in operation since then, with decision made by a majority vote.

Last year, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea challenging the appointment of Goel as election commissioner, saying the constitution bench of the apex court had already dealt with the issue.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice (now retired) KM Joseph had perused the file related to Goel’s appointment but had refused to quash it even though it had made certain observation.

In March last year, the bench headed by Justice Joseph had ordered the government to bring a law on appointment of CEC and ECs.

The Congress expressed “deep concern” over Goel’s resignation and said that if the “systematic decimation” of independent institutions is not stopped then democracy shall be usurped by dictatorship.

“Election Commission or Election OMISSION? India now has only one Election Commissioner, even as Lok Sabha elections are to be announced in few days. Why?” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in a post on X.

“As I have said earlier, if we do not stop the systematic decimation of our independent institutions, our democracy shall be usurped by dictatorship!” he said.

Congress general secretary organisation K C Venugopal said in a post on X, “It is deeply concerning for the health of the world’s largest democracy that Election Commissioner Mr. Arun Goel has resigned on the cusp of the Lok Sabha elections.”

Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale said it was concerning that two appointments are to be made to the poll panel ahead of the general elections.

“In a sudden move, Election Commissioner Arun Goel has abruptly resigned. The post of the other EC is vacant. That leaves the Election Commission now with just one Chief Election Commissioner,” he said in a post on X.

(With excerpts from PTI)

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