Two election commissioners are likely to be appointed by March 15 to fill the vacancies created by the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey and the surprise resignation of Arun Goel, sources said on Sunday.

Days before the poll panel is expected to announce the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls, Goel resigned on Friday morning. His resignation was accepted by President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday and the Law Ministry issued a notification to announce it.

This leaves Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar as the sole member of the poll authority.

Pandey had demitted office on February 14 on attaining the age of 65 years.

A search committee under Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal and comprising the Home Secretary and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) Secretary will first prepare two separate panels of five names each for the two posts.

Later, a selection committee headed by the prime minister and comprising a Union minister and Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will then name two persons for appointment as election commissioners.

The election commissioners will be appointed by the President.

Sources said the selection committee could meet either on March 13 or 14 depending on the convenience of the members and the appointments are likely to be made by March 15.

Before a new law on the appointment of CEC and ECs came into force recently, the election commissioners were appointed by the President on the government’s recommendation and as per custom, the senior-most was appointed as CEC.

Clause 2 of Article 324 of the Constitution states that the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix.

Responding to questions on reasons behind Goel’s resignation, the sources said he might have resigned due to personal reasons.

They also rejected suggestions that there were differences between Goel and Kumar, saying records of internal communication, minutes and decisions show there was no dissent recorded by Goel.

Goel, who tendered resignation on Friday morning, did not attend the crucial meeting between the EC and top home ministry and railway officials to firm up deployment and movement of central forces across India for poll duty.

Goel was a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Punjab cadre. He joined the Election Commission in November 2022. His tenure was till December 5, 2027, and he would have become Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) after incumbent Rajiv Kumar retired in February next year.

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.–(PTI)