Amid Covid-19 crisis, Jagan removes state election commissioner through ordinance
The ordinance which amended Section 200 of the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, got the nod of Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan in the evening and soon after, the government issued a confidential order retiring Ramesh Kumar from service.Updated: Apr 10, 2020 23:21 IST
The YSR Congress party government in Andhra Pradesh on Friday forced the state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar to retire by promulgating an ordinance reducing the tenure of the SEC from five years to three years.
The ordinance which amended Section 200 of the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, got the nod of Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan in the evening and soon after, the government issued a confidential order retiring Ramesh Kumar from service.
An official in the CMO said the ordinance sought to reduce the tenure of the SEC from five years to three years and also to appoint a judicial officer of a high court judge rank as the SEC. The ordinance would be replaced by a bill in the next assembly session.
Ramesh Kumar, who assumed charge as SEC on April 1, 2016, has completed three years in service and going by the latest ordinance, he would automatically relinquish his office.
YSRC president and chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy was upset with Ramesh Kumar for postponing the elections to urban and rural local bodies scheduled to be held in the last week of March in the wake of Coronavirus outbreak.
Jagan also objected to the SEC ordering the transfer of two collectors and SPs, besides taking disciplinary action against police officials in Macherla and some other parts of the state for alleged malpractices during the nomination process.
He alleged that Ramesh Kumar was indirectly favouring Telugu Desam Party led by N Chandrababu Naidu as both belonged to the same caste.
Subsequently, Ramesh Kumar had written a letter to the Centre seeking additional security for himself and his family, alleging a threat to his life from the ruling party leaders.
The High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the SEC decision to postpone the elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the apex court relaxed the poll code until the announcement of the next schedule.
Last week, Ramesh further upset the Jagan government by issuing a directive to the district collectors to probe into the allegations of money distribution by YSRC contestants in the name of Covid-19 relief.
The Jagan government’s decision to remove Ramesh Kumar through ordinance route incurred the wrath of the opposition parties. The TDP chief wrote a letter to the Governor stating that the ordinance was brought with a vicious design to remove the present state election commissioner Ramesh Kumar.
“Currently, elections to local bodies have been postponed mid-way due to the threat of Covid-19. Thus, local body elections are in the process. In such circumstances, what is the necessity to bring in an amendment through the backdoor in the form of an ordinance to change the term and eligibility of the SEC,” he asked.
Further, to apply the said amendment now, when the Commissioner is in position, is unethical and against the law. If any, the amendment is applicable after the present Commissioner’s term of office is completed, he said.
BJP Andhra Pradesh president Kanna Lakshminarayana said the CM is on a spree of removing every Constitutional body that he does not get along with. “He had scrapped the Legislative Council for referring one or two Bills to select committees. He removed State Election Commissioner. Will he scrap the High Court for staying his decisions?”, he asked.
YSRC official spokesman and MLA Ambati Rambabu, however, defended the ordinance stating that it was a policy decision of the government aimed at bringing reforms in the panchayat raj act and nobody could question it.