The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday observed that the state election commission will not have to bear the legal costs incurred when former Tamil Nadu Justice Kangaraju was appointed as the SEC by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Hearing a petition filed by State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the High Court ruled that the legal expenses and other costs during Kangaraju’s brief tenure as SEC need not be borne by the State Election Commission.
Further, the court made it clear that if Kangaraju appointed legal counsels, the fees should be entirely borne by Kangaraju. The court also asked the SEC can reconsider bearing Rs 20 lakh for the accommodation and Rs 15 lakh furniture expenses incurred when Kangaraju was the election commissioner.
“The details of the expenses and expenditure incurred for Kanagaraj’s legal counsel should be made known to the people. It is public exchequer and the people have a right to know,” the High Court observed. The Andhra Pradesh government had appointed retired Madras High Court judge, Justice V. Kanagaraj, as the State Election Commissioner (SEC) in the place of Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, whom it had expelled through an overnight ordinance.
Ramesh Kumar challenged the Jagan government’s ordinance and appointment of Kangaraju as SEC. After a prolonged legal battle in the HC and SC, Ramesh Kumar was reinstated as SEC.
Meanwhile, Ramesh Kumar had recently filed another petition contending that the YSRCP government was not releasing funds required for the maintenance of the State Election Commission office. Nimmagadda Ramesh had argued that the government had stopped funds allocation towards the maintenance of the Election Commission.
The High Court on Tuesday observed that the Andhra Pradesh government was willfully not cooperating with the State Election Commissioner.
“Governments will change, but the constitutional institutions will always exist. Democracy will be in deep danger if constitutional institutions are not protected,” the High Court said.
The High Court asked the State Election Commission to submit a detailed report on SEC expenses to the government within three days. The court also directed the government to look into the SEC report and submit an action taken report to the High Court within 15 days.