New Delhi:  A few weeks prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Election Commissioner Arun Goel abruptly resigned, and the President accepted his resignation. There was a vacancy on the three-member Election Commission of India, and Rajiv Kumar will be the only remaining member.

The Lok Sabha election dates are expected to be revealed next week, according to sources who spoke with NDTV earlier on Saturday. However, Mr. Goel’s resignation has cast doubt on that timeframe.

High-ranking officials stated that Mr. Goel resigned for personal reasons, despite efforts by the administration to talk him out of it. They stated that Mr. Goel is in excellent health, dispelling rumors that his resignation was due to health issues. “The government will start the process of appointing other election commissioners,” stated a government source.

On November 18, 2022, Mr. Goel, an IAS officer from the 1985 batch, voluntarily retired. The next day, he was named Election Commissioner. The Supreme Court had inquired about the nature of the “tearing hurry” from the administration when this matter came up.

“Four names are selected by the Minister of Law from the list of shortlisted candidates… On November 18, the file was uploaded; it moved that same day. On the same day, the PM also suggests the name. Was this done in a hurry? We don’t want to get into any arguments. In what desperate hurry, the court had questioned.

However, a two-judge bench last year rejected a petition against Mr. Goel’s nomination. The judges took notice of the Constitution bench’s investigation into the matter, but they declined to revoke Mr. Goel’s appointment.

Mr. Goel served until 2027, at which point he was expected to succeed Rajiv Kumar as Chief Election Commissioner following the latter’s retirement the following year.

‘Very Concerning’

Prior to Mr. Goel’s resignation, there were worries that the Election Commission of India’s core committee, which normally consisted of three members, might only include him and Rajiv Kumar for the Lok Sabha elections. Anup Pandey, the other Election Commissioner, had retired a month prior.

Saket Gokhale, the head of the Trinamool Congress, called Mr. Goel’s departure “extremely concerning” and noted that the Prime Minister, a minister from the Union Cabinet, and the head of the Opposition now make up the panel that chooses Election Commissioners.

“Arun Goel, the Election Commissioner, has resigned suddenly. The other EC’s position is open. Election commissioners will henceforth be nominated by the Modi government with a majority vote cast by PM Modi and one minister of his choosing, according to a new law. Thus, with his departure today, Modi will now designate two of the three Election Commissioners prior to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” he wrote on X.

Leader of the Congress, KC Venugopal, expressed grave worry about the departure and asserted that the Election Commission has been operating with “absolutely no transparency.”

Appointment Process

The Chief Justice of India, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister would designate Election Commissioners, according to a historic Supreme Court decision from March of last year. The bench further declared that the order would remain in effect until Parliament passed a law.

The decision was made in response to petitions that called for the appointment of Election Commissioners to be made transparent through a collegium-style structure. The petitioners had contended that the previous system, in which the President, on the Prime Minister’s suggestion, selected the Chief Election Commissioner and two Commissioners for a term of six years, was governed by the “whims and fancies of the executive”.

Nonetheless, a bill to substitute a Union Cabinet minister for the Chief Justice of India on the panel was approved by the Parliament in December. At a time when an unprecedented number of opposition MPs were suspended, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was approved.

A number of influential figures had claimed that the Bill violated the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling by undermining the Election Commission’s independence. The President gave his approval to it, and the court has thus far declined to halt the law.

By newsparviews.com

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