Jagan govt accused of ignoring order on local body polls, faces contempt
Andhra Pradesh state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Friday filed a contempt of court petition in the state high court against the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government for its non-cooperation with the commission in conducting local body elections in the state.
In the petition, Ramesh Kumar charged the state government with not honouring the high court’s order dated November 3, directing it to extend necessary cooperation to the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold panchayat raj elections in February 2021.
“The state government’s refusal to comply with the high court directions is contemptuous in nature,” Kumar said in the petition, in which he mentioned chief secretary Neelam Sawhney and principal secretary, panchayat raj Gopala Krishna Dwivedi as respondents.
He said despite writing several letters to the chief secretary and the principal secretary of the panchayat raj department for initiating the process for conducting the elections in February, there had not been proper response from them till date.
Ramesh Kumar further said the government was not releasing necessary funds to the SEC as per the budgetary allocations to enable it to take up the election process. It was also not filling up existing vacancies in the SEC, which was essential to conduct the elections despite the court orders, he alleged.
Ever since the SEC decided last month to hold the elections to the panchayat raj bodies in February, the state government has been strongly resisting the same on the ground that the state was yet to overcome the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government stonewalled the attempts of Ramesh Kumar to hold video conferences with district collectors to discuss the preparedness for local body elections, forcing him to move the high court.
On Tuesday, the state government filed an affidavit in the high court stating that it would not be possible to conduct the elections to local bodies in February, as the official machinery would be busy with the coronavirus vaccination programme.
The government argued that as per the central government guidelines, the vaccination programme will be taken up in January and February. Not only the police department, but the employees of various other departments would be engaged in the vaccination programme, it said.
However, the SEC filed a counter on Thursday stating that the conduct of local body elections would in no way affect the vaccination programme.
“Moreover, it will take at least three to six months for the vaccination programme to commence in the state,” he said.
The SEC also brought to the notice of the high court that elections were held in Bihar, Rajasthan and Hyderabad without any issue amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The situation in Andhra Pradesh is conducive for holding elections to local bodies,” he said.