Setback for CM Jagan Reddy, High Court reinstates state election commissioner
The Andhra Pradesh High Court today directed the state government to reinstate State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar who was dismissed by the government on April 10 after he postponed the local body elections that were scheduled to be held on March 25. Citing Coronavirus situation, Kumar had postponed the elections indefinitely, resulting in a showdown with the government. The state government brought an ordinance under Article 213 and removed Kumar who challenged it in the high court.
This is the second major setback for the AP Government. Last week, the AP High Court had directed the government to reinstate former intelligence chief A B Venkateshwara Rao who was suspended on allegations of corruption. Rao, who is known to be close to former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, was alleged to be involved in irregularities in purchase of surveillance equipment from Israeli firm RT Inflatable Objects and awarding the contract to Akasam Advanced System Company which is owned by Rao’s son.
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy was livid when Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar postponed the local body elections. The CM said that the EC did not consult anyone in the government before taking the decision and accused him of doing it at the bidding of N Chandrababu Naidu who had appointed him as the EC during his tenure. Kumar, a retired IAS officer who was appointed in April 2016, also ordered the transfer of District Collectors of Guntur and Chittoor, and suspended the Circle Inspector of Macharla Town in Guntur.
Two TDP leaders were attacked by YSRCP workers on March 11 in Macharla. A number instances of YSRCP leaders and workers attacking TDP candidates going to file nomination papers for the local body elections were reported from Guntur and Chittoor which, Kumar said, prompted the transfer of the two district collectors. The EC also directed all district collectors to stop all activities related to survey of land to be distributed to eligible beneficiaries which upset the government.
The government issued an ordinance on April 10 modifying the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 to change the tenure, eligibility and appointment of the State Election Commissioner. The ordinance reduced the term of the SEC to three years using which the government dismissed Kumar and appointed former retired Madras High Court judge V Kangaraj. As per the AP High Court’s order today, Justice (retired) V Kangaraj will not be the election commissioner and Kumar can resume duty immediately.