CHANDIGARH – Although an erstwhile Punjab Cadre IAS officer of 1985 batch, Arun Goel, who was on Central Deputation since last over a decade and who was otherwise scheduled to superannuate next month, however took Voluntary Retirement recently on Nov 18 and the very next day got appointed by the President of India to the coveted post of Election Commissioner in the Election Commission of India (ECI) of which he has also assumed charge, but as far the constitutional post of State Election Commissioner (SEC) in the State of Punjab is concerned, the same is lying vacant since past close to a year.
Meanwhile, an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Hemant Kumar, has today sent a legal notice to the State of Punjab for making expeditious appointment of SEC, Punjab, a post provided under Article(s) 243K and 243ZA of Constitution of India which is also having statutory sanctity under Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994.
The Advocate asserted that as per Section 4 of Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994, the Governor (of State of Punjab) shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint an officer of the State Government not below the age of 55 years and of the rank of Financial Commissioner, or the Principal Secretary to the State Government having service as such for a minimum period of two years or a serving or retired Judge of the High Court as (State) Election Commissioner.
It has been further provided in the ibid 1994 Act that no Officer, who has attained such age of superannuation, as may from time to time be fixed by the State Government, shall be appointed as State Election Commissioner (SEC). Further, the SEC shall hold office for a term of five years from the date he assumes his office. However, where such appointed person attains the age of 65 years before the expiry of the said term of five years, he shall vacate his office on the date on which he attains the said age. It is also provided that no officer, who has attained such age of superannuation, as may from time to time be fixed by the State Government, shall be appointed as SEC.
Pertinent to mention that till date six retired IAS Officers viz. S/Sh. Manmohan Singh, CD Cheema, CL Bains, AK Dubey, SS Brar and Jagpal Singh Sandhu have been appointed as SEC, Punjab from time to time. However, close to a year has passed since previous incumbent Jagpal Singh Sandhu completed his tenure of 5 years as SEC, Punjab in the month of Dec, 2021, the post has not been filled for the reasons best known to the State Government of Punjab.
Hemant said that it was the duty of the then Charanjit Singh Channi led dispensation which was in power in the State of Punjab during Dec, 2021 to appoint a successor to previous incumbent Jagpal Singh Sandhu, however it did not. Pertinent that the Model Code of Conduct was also imposed in the State of Punjab with effect from Jan 8, 2022 with the announcement of Poll Schedule for General Elections to 16th Punjab Legislative Assembly by Election Commission of India.
Furthermore, the current S. Bhagwant Mann led Government which assumed reins of power in the State of Punjab with effect from March 16, 2022 has also not done the needful i.e. has not appointed the SEC, Punjab in the over eight months of its tenure till date.
Hemant opines that since the SEC is a constitutional post, hence it ought not to be kept vacant for such a long period. It also amounts to violation of constitutional provisions by the State Government of Punjab.
The Advocate says that in the event of any further inordinate delay, he would be compelled to file an appropriate Writ Petition/Public Interest Litigation before the Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court in this regard.