Former State Election Commissioner, N Ramesh Kumar being shunned by the Ruling government this week, approached the High Court on Sunday. The SEC argued the unconstitutionality of the Ordinance which cut short the five-year tenure of SEC. The petition also challenged the appointment of retired Madras High Court Judge V Kanagaraj in his place.
The Ordinance was a result of a near month long row after the SEC Ramesh Kumar postponed the local body elections as a precaution to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This decision resulted in an angry reaction from the YSRCP government, which accused him of acting in favour of the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The Governor issued an ordinance on Friday amending the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994. The ordinance reduced the term of SEC to three years while adding a provision of re-appointment after three years. This abruptly ended the term of Ramesh Kumar who was appointed in 2016. The Ordinance further changed the eligibility of SEC while adding the requirement of having had an office of the Judge at a High Court.
The Chief Minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy personally met the Governor on March 14, and slammed the SEC for his unilateral decision while claiming to have acted in favour of the opposition party.
Ramesh Kumar argued in court that the decision was arbitrary with the intention to shunt him from the post and the Government did not give any clear reasons for doing so. He also stated that this was nothing short of ‘encroaching’ upon the independence that the Election Commission is guaranteed as a constitutional body.
The High Court upheld the decision of Ramesh Kumar to postpone the elections owing to the rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic. With the nationwide lockdown, a local body election at this point would further enable people to gather in groups and transmit the virus. The Supreme Court upheld the decision as well although it relaxed the poll code until further announcement.
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