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Election Commissioner Arun Goel Resigns, Leaving Election Commission with Two Vacancies

New Delhi, March 09, 2024 – In a surprising development, Election Commissioner Arun Goel has tendered his resignation just weeks before the Lok Sabha polls. The President has accepted his resignation, leaving the three-member Election Commission of India with only Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar.

Impact on Lok Sabha Election Timeline

Sources have revealed that the announcement of Lok Sabha election dates, expected next week, may face delays due to Mr. Goel’s unexpected departure. The government reportedly attempted to dissuade him from resigning, citing personal reasons, but Mr. Goel stood firm in his decision, dismissing health-related speculation.

Background and Appointment Controversy

A 1985-batch IAS officer, Arun Goel, voluntarily retired on November 18, 2022, and assumed the role of Election Commissioner the following day. This appointment had triggered questions in the Supreme Court, questioning the swiftness of the process. However, a two-judge bench dismissed a petition against Goel’s appointment, noting that a Constitution bench had previously examined the issue and refused to cancel the appointment.

Concerns Over Election Commission Composition

Even before Goel’s resignation, concerns were raised about the core body of the Election Commission operating with only two members, including Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar. The other Election Commissioner, Anup Pandey, retired last month, leaving the commission understaffed.

Political Reactions

The sudden resignation has sparked concerns and criticism from political leaders. Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale termed it “very very concerning,” highlighting the change in the process of appointing Election Commissioners, where a majority vote by Prime Minister Modi and a chosen minister will now be decisive.

Congress leader KC Venugopal echoed these sentiments, expressing deep concern over the lack of transparency in the functioning of the Election Commission.

Appointment Process and Legal Changes

Last year, a landmark Supreme Court ruling dictated the appointment of Election Commissioners by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India. However, in December 2023, Parliament passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, replacing the Chief Justice of India with a Union Cabinet minister in the appointment panel.

The controversial bill faced opposition, with critics arguing that it compromised the autonomy of the Election Commission, contrary to the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment.

As the government starts the process of appointing new Election Commissioners, the implications of Arun Goel’s resignation on the electoral landscape remain a subject of keen observation. Stay tuned for further updates on this evolving story.

The Indian Bugle
The Indian Bugle
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