Andhra Pradesh SEC Ramesh Kumar reinstated by high court
Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday struck down the ordinance promulgated by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government last month to remove state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar by reducing his tenure.
A high court bench comprising chief justice JK Maheshwari and senior judge Satyanarayana Murthy also revoked the government orders that followed the ordinance and directed that Ramesh Kumar must be reinstated as the state’s election commissioner with immediate effect.
Within an hour of the high court’s judgement, Ramesh Kumar announced he had resumed charge as SEC and that he would discharge his duties fairly and impartially as he had done in the past and as mandated.
Kumar said on Friday he would like to resume electoral process to the local bodies at the earliest on the return of normalcy in consultation with the principal stakeholders and all political parties.
“Individuals are not permanent. But Constitutional institutions and the values they represent alone are permanent in the end. Those who have taken an oath of office to protect Constitution, have a greater responsibility to continue to protect and safeguard these institutions and their integrity,” he said.
The ordinance was promulgated by the government on April 10 making an amendment to AP Panchayat Raj Act reducing the tenure of state election commissioner from five to three years and appointing a high court official of judicial officer rank as SEC in place of bureaucrats.
Within a day of the issuance of the ordinance, the government appointed Madras High Court’s retired, justice V Kanagaraj, as the state election commissioner and he took charge immediately.
The position of Kanagaraj in the wake of the latest high court judgement is not immediately known.
The high court delivered the judgement after prolonged hearing of a batch of petitions, including those of Kumar who challenged his removal and that of Telugu Desam Party leader Varla Ramaiah, BJP leader Kamineni Srinivas and former minister Vadde Sobhanadreeshwar Rao.
The high court ruled that the state government had no powers to promulgate the ordinance under Article 213 of the Constitution in the given circumstances.
The Jagan government chose to remove Kumar through ordinance route, after the official issued a notification on March 15 for the postponement of local body elections scheduled to be held in the last week of that month citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason.
Jagan fumed at Kumar for taking a unilateral decision to postpone the elections without consulting the state chief secretary or even the health department officials. The chief minister accused Kumar of colluding with the Telugu Desam Party since the official belonged to the same caste as TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu.
Later, Kumar wrote to the Union ministry of home affairs seeking additional police protection to him and his family as he was getting threatening calls from the YSRC leaders.
His letter also became controversial and CID is probing it.
Senior advocate Jandhyala Ravi Shankar, who argued for petitioners, said the high court had felt that the government and the governor were wrong in promulgating the ordinance, which is violative of various articles.