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High Court green signal to SEC to hold municipal polls

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has given its go-ahead to the State Election Commission to conduct the municipal elections as per its recent notification. As such, the civil polls will now be held on March 10 and counting will be on March 14. The court has dismissed over 16 petitions which challenged the legality of the re-start of the civic polls after a year’s time.

The municipal polls were actually begun in March last year itself. But they were postponed at that time because of the Covid pandemic. Now, the petitioners claimed that it was not correct on the part of SEC Ramesh Kumar to go ahead with the restart of the elections without giving a chance to the new voters to take part in the election process.

The petitioners sought the court to issue an order to stall the elections and issue a fresh notification after duly taking into account the aspirations of the new young voters. However, the SEC lawyers contended that once an election process began, there was no chance to stall the same. The constitutional requirement was that it should be completed without fail.

Ever since the SEC restarted the local body elections, the YCP has been creating one hurdle or another. Now, the petitioners’ efforts to stall the elections went in vain.

With this, the stage is set for another tension-filled battle between the YCP and the TDP candidates with both the parties claiming having tactical and public support.

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High Court asks TTD to submit details of Sri Vari assets

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has ordered the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to submit details of all the Sri Vari assets all over. The court gave this instruction after hearing the arguments made by a petitioner’s lawyer seeking an order to stall sale of all sorts of assets of the TTD. The petitioner sought the court’s intervention to protest the properties of the TTD in the State and in other places in the country.

The High Court has also asked for details of the report submitted by the Committee led by Retired Supreme Court Judge that made recommendations for the protection of the TTD properties. The petitioner’s lawyer has said that there was a need for saving the TTD properties from sale. And, the list of all the properties held by the TTD should be placed in the public domain.

The TTD lawyer told the court that already, the details of properties were placed before the public. Then, the court has asked for submitting those details to it.

The petitioner complained to the court that the TTD has no right to sell the movable and immovable properties of Sri Varu since the devotees had made those donations out of sentiment.

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Cancel municipal polls: petitioner to AP High Court

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Not a single day passes without some case being filed in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh relating to governance and elections. Today, a petitioner approached the court seeking an order canceling the notification given by the State Election Commission for the municipal elections. The court heard the arguments and postponed the next hearing for tomorrow.

The petitioner’s lawyer argued that the Election Commission was wrong in going ahead with the election without having the latest electoral lists. He wanted the latest rolls of electors to be prepared and based on them, fresh elections should be held. This argument was nothing new. Already, a similar case was filed against the panchayat elections but the court did not stall the elections.

As per the latest notification, the elections are going to be held for 12 municipal corporations, 75 municipalities and nagar panchayats. The polling is to be held on March 10 and counting on March 14. This election was a continuation of the process that was initiated in March last year itself when the election was postponed on account of the Coronavirus infections.

The municipal elections are going to witness serious battles between the ruling YCP and the Opposition. Both the TDP and the Jana Sena are preparing for epic battles this time. If both the parties come to an understanding, the YCP will have to fight a losing battle in major corporations like Vijayawada, Vizag, Tirupati and so on.

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High Court shock to Kodali Nani, asks for tapes

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has refused to give immediate relief to Minister Kodali Nani without seeing the videotapes of his statements made against the State Election Commission (SEC). The SEC lawyer has asked the court not to give its order without seeing the tapes. Problems arose in the past when the High Court gave relief to Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy and MLA Jogi Ramesh without checking what they said against the SEC.

Kodali Nani moved a House Motion before the High Court today as it was a holiday being a Sunday. Nani’s lawyer told the court that the SEC has banned him from speaking to the media and holding official meetings as well even though the Minister has not said anything hurtful.

The High Court then asked whether Nani’s lawyer had attached the video showing Nani’s statement against the SEC. When he said that it was not attached, the court asked him to provide the video tomorrow. The hearing was also postponed for Monday afternoon at 2.15 p.m.

SEC Ramesh Kumar took a serious note of the SEC getting adverse orders from the court in the case of Peddireddy and Jogi Ramesh. This time, he made sure that the court should get to know full details of Kodali Nani’s outburst against the SEC before issuing any order.

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Andhra SEC can’t use ‘eWatch’ app until Feb 17 as HC adjourns case

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In a major setback to Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the high court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing on ‘eWatch’, an election monitoring app, until February 17, rendering it useless until then.

The court said the SEC cannot use the app until it procures a security certificate, and directed the SEC to reply to the queries raised by the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services (APTS), the nodal agency for conducting security audit and issuing a security certificate, without which no app can come into play.

The court took up the PILs filed against eWatch, which were heard by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Praveen Kumar.

C. Sumon, representing the state government, informed the court that based on the SEC’s request, APTS conducted preliminary tests and sent a report about the security flaws and concerns detected in eWatch.

The APTS highlighted that allegedly the source code of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department was used in the development of eWatch.

Sumon apprised the court that the SEC has not allegedly produced any document to show that the social welfare department gave permission to use its source code.

In this regard, the APTS sought more information from the SEC and it was highlighted that if the source code was used without the knowledge of the social welfare department, then there is the possibility of a major cyber security threat to the department.

The APTS generally takes five days just to check the security worthiness of an app.

The election commission expressed its willingness to use the election monitoring app of the Election Commission of India (ECI) if it is allowed to do so while the SEC’s counsel submitted that the app developed by the state government, Nigha, was not working.

The court enquired if the state government has any objection if the app developed by it is used by the SEC.

Sumon informed the court that he had no instructions on the status of the app developed by the state but said that the state will not have any objection.

Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a war of poll apps in the run-up to the rural local bodies elections.

Earlier, three petitions were filed in the court challenging the app, which attracted criticism from the ruling YSR Congress Party as well as the BJP.

The petitioners as well as YSRCP leaders alleged that Kumar ignored ECI’s CVIGIL app and the state government’s apps and went for an altogether new app.

According to the plaintiffs, the State Election Commission allegedly did not have the required security certificate under the Andhra Pradesh cyber security policy and other government orders, while Kumar had failed to approach the relevant government agency to secure a security certificate.

Though the election commission’s newly appointed secretary, Kannababu, said that eWatch was completely developed inhouse while launching it, the petitioners alleged that it is not clear as to who exactly developed the digital app.

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Centre’s escapist statement on AP High Court shifting

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BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao asked a question in Rajya Sabha about the status of the AP High Court shifting to Kurnool. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad gave his reply in which he said in so many words that the Centre had no role in this matter. He told Rajya Sabha that the maintenance and expenditure of the High Court were all borne by the State Government itself. Whereas, the administration of the High Court was solely looked after by the Chief Justice of AP.

Having said all these things, the Union Minister indicated that the High Court shifting would be possible only with a consensus between the AP Government and the Chief Justice of AP. There was also no time limit for this. From this, it was clear that the shifting of the High Court was not solely in the hands of the State Government. Hence, the so called decentralisation bill of the Jagan regime would not by itself stand a legal ground with regard to the High Court shifting.

When it comes to the High Court, the majority opinion among the judges and the advocates has been against shifting from the beginning. Now, the ball is back in the court of the High Court. The present Chief Justice would play a crucial role in this affair now. Even after change of the Chief Justice, there were many instances wherein the High Court was still passing orders against the Government’s decisions. It is highly likely that the Jagan regime would once again bring pressure on the president Chief Justice as well. Nothing can be ruled going by how things take curious twists in AP these days.

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Restrain SEC from using ‘eWatch’, says plea in Andhra HC

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A lawyer has moved the Andhra Pradesh High Court to seek an order to restrain State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar from using ‘eWatch’, an election monitoring digital app.

In his petition, advocate K Sudhakar from Prakasam district instead sought the use of ‘CVIGIL’ app of the Election Commission of India or ‘Nigha’ of the state government.

Questions have been raised as to when and how the tenders for developing ‘eWatch’ were notified.

On Wednesday, Kumar had launched ‘election watch’ or ‘eWatch’ to monitor the ongoing rural local body elections, which the State Election Commission Secretary Kannababu said was developed in-house.

Some of the categories in which people can lodge complaints include public officials involved in promotion of candidates or parties, canvassing within 100 metres of polling stations, booth capturing and election-related violence.

However, the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) leaders allege that the app has been developed to “benefit” the opposition Telugu Desam Party. They have instead launched their own app ‘Netram’ to solicit complaints from the public.

Before these two apps, the TDP was the first political party to solicit complaints from the public on election violations in the form of photographs and videos.

The TDP had set up a control room with a call centre number to receive the complaints, including on WhatsApp.

“Please take the advisories from advocates of the party’s legal cell,” said a TDP leader, aimed at helping TDP supporters contesting the elections.

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AP High Court’s another blow to YCP on panchayat polls

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has given one more shock to the ruling YCP on the issue of the panchayat elections. It has summarily rejected the petition filed by a person seeking cancellation of the panchayat elections. The petitioner’s advocate argued that over 3.6 lakh young people were not able to vote since the authorities could not prepare the 2021 voters lists. As a result, the State Election Commission (SEC) went ahead with the polls based on the 2019 electoral rolls.

The petitioner also contended that SEC Ramesh Kumar would have postponed till the latest 2021 rolls were available. It was unethical on the part of the SEC to go ahead with the polls without giving voting rights to the youngsters.
However, after hearing the arguments, the High Court expressed its helplessness at this stage and it would not be able to interfere with the election process which had already begun. The court rejected the plea for stalling the panchayat elections and dismissed the petition. The court has also rejected another petition which has made a similar argument.

From day one, the YCP has been moving earth and heaven to postpone the panchayat elections till after SEC Ramesh Kumar’s retirement in March-end. Somehow, the circumstances were not favourable to the Jagan regime while Ramesh Kumar was having the last laugh all the time.

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AP High Court to hear new petition against panchayat polls

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One issue or another is constantly obstructing the AP panchayat polls. First, CM Jagan wanted the elections to be completed in March last year. His Government was thinking of shifting Capital after finishing the polls at that time. The State Election Commission postponed the elections because of Coronavirus in March last year. Now, after the Supreme Court gave the green signal, the panchayat polls were restarted.

But now, once again, another petition was filed before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh against the polls. A student named Akhila filed the petition seeking the court’s order to stay the elections. She took objection to continuing to hold the elections with over 3.6 lakh young people not getting their voting right. Her petition is coming up for hearing today. If the court stays the polls now, then Ramesh Kumar would have no chance to complete the poll during his tenure.

This problem arose because the SEC is holding the election based on the 2019 voter list. SEC Ramesh Kumar had to do this as the State Government officials could not furnish the latest 2021 voter list in time.

Rumours doing the roads say that some hidden forces are once again working overtime to postpone the election till after Ramesh Kumar retires in two months.

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AP SEC moves house motion against single bench

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AP State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar is putting up a strong fight against the Jaganmohan Reddy Government. He has now moved a house motion before the division bench of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The SEC sought dismissal of the single bench order that suspended the SEC’s recently released schedule for the local body elections.

Mr. Ramesh Kumar’s lawyer argued before the court that the single bench did not consider the long mediation held by the SEC with the Government and the political parties. The SEC plea is coming up for hearing today in front of the division bench of the High Court.

Also, the SEC was also going to meet with AP Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan to brief him about the latest developments regarding the local body elections. Mr. Ramesh Kumar has taken a serious view of the suspension of the poll schedule despite the fact that similar elections were held in different parts of the country and the world already.

The SEC maintains that it has taken the final decision on the poll schedule only after consulting the Government and all the political parties. The Government’s argument alone cannot be taken as the criterion for suspending the schedule now.

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AP government gets huge respite as HC cancels local elections schedule

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In what could be termed as a huge respite for YSRCP government of Andhra Pradesh , High Court today cancelled the schedule issued by state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar and concurred with the argument of the state government that the local body elections could not be held at this moment because of the planned vaccination schedule. Details as below.

The government of Andhra Pradesh and state election commission have been at loggerheads ever since state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar postponed local body elections citing Covid 19 proliferation last year. At that time CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy alleged that State election Commissioner has been working as per the orders of former chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu as both of them belong to the same community and as he was appointed by the former chief minister. But recently Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar has been planning to conduct local body elections before he steps out from his position . But it seems now, the government is adamant and wants to have elections only after he steps out.

In this backdrop, Nimmagadda released schedule of local body elections recently, citing that COVID has been in control in AP, which came as shocker to the government. But as vaccination plan for COVID-19 is in place already, government has invoked article 19 of the constitution i.e. right to live and the Honourable court has concurred with the argument put forward by the government. So, the court has made the schedule released by SEC null and void.

We need to wait and see how the political parties respond to this.

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No relief for Jagan Govt in house motion before High Court

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The Andhra Pradesh High Court refused to pass urgent orders in the house motion moved by the Jagan Reddy Government on the issue of panchayat elections. However, the court postponed the hearing to Monday. The lack of immediate relief from the court came as a minor setback to the Government.

Already, the election code of conduct came into force from today itself. State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar was sticking to his decision to go ahead with the elections. There were serious counter reactions from all sections in the Government but still the SEC was determined to conduct the elections as per the schedule.

Now, just like in many other instances in the past, the YCP Government once again challenged the SEC decision on the February local polls before the High Court. Since there was not enough time to approach the Supreme Court, the Government immediately opted for the house motion.

The local polls issue was already heard in the High Court. It was based on the orders of the court itself that AP Chief Secretary Adityanath Das along with other officials met with the SEC personally. However, the differences between the SEC and the Government remained unresolved.

The SEC had also accused the Government on record of deliberately postponing the local polls in order to hold the same after his retirement after March. Ramesh Kumar also blamed YCP MP Vijay Sai Reddy for announcing that local polls would be held after April.

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AP High Court tells Govt to file its counter on AB petition

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Only one day has passed since the new Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh has taken charge. Today, the High Court ordered the AP Government to file its counter on the AB Venkateswara Rao petition. The Ex Intelligence Chief had sought the court’s orders for preventing the AP police from arresting him in the name of scam in purchase of intelligence devices.

The High Court heard the case today and ordered the Government not to arrest Mr. Venkateswara Rao for the next 14 days. It postponed the next hearing to January 18. Also, the court asked the Government to file its counter by January 18. The Ex Intelligence Chief had petitioned that the Government was trying to illegally arrest him.

It may be recalled that CM Jaganmohan Reddy has complained against previous CJ Justice JK Maheswari in a letter to the Chief Justice of India. Consequently, the AP Chief Justice was changed. In just days, many cases relating to the AP Government’s decisions are coming up before the court.
The High Court has taken note of the charges levelled by AB Venkateswara Rao and promptly gave him relief. It is going to be yet another curious case wherein the Government would have to face embarrassment if the police cannot prove charges of corruption against the Ex Intelligence Chief.

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Centre notifies transfer of AP Chief Justice Maheswari

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Amid a huge controversy, everything was going as per a predetermined script in Andhra Pradesh. Weeks ago, CM Jagan Reddy wrote a sensational letter to the Chief Justice of India complaining against the AP High Court Chief Justice. Today, the Central Government issued a notification, transferring AP Chief Justice J.K. Maheswari to Sikkim. With this, the Union Law Ministry brought the curtains down on the Jagan-CJI letter issue.
At the same time, Sikkim Chief Justice Aroop Kumar Goswami was appointed as the new Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh. The notification with respect to his transfer was expected soon. Justice Maheswari had served in AP during a tumultuous period when countless cases came up before his court against the Government. Eventually, his judgements and observations had created distance between the High Court and the Government.
Now, it would be a matter of just a few months how Justice Aroop Kumar would lead the AP High Court. The judges would have to abide by the laws while delivering their judgements. But that was creating tensions in the day to day dealings with the petitioners and the Government.
AP High Court is also getting a new judge. Kolkata High Court Judge Justice Joymalya Bagchi is transferred to AP High Court.

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SVBC staff plea rejected by AP High Court in porn issue

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has upheld the decision of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) with respect to the removal of over 5 employees on the charges of misconduct. The court said that the action of the staff of TTD’s Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel deserved stringent punishment and rejected the employees’ plea for reinstatement.

The TTD petitioned the High Court that they were removed from the jobs without giving prior notice. This was against the terms and conditions of employment and the principles of natural justice. However, Judge Satyanarayana Murthy took a serious view of the behaviour of the staff. He summarily set aside their petition.
It may be recalled that a TTD employee sent a porn video clip to a devotee who actually requested for the clipping of a devotional programme. The management ordered a vigilance enquiry which revealed that many employees in the SVBC channel were seeing porn video clips in the office.

Following availability of enough evidence, five SVBC staff were outright removed from service. The whole issue came to the surface after the devotee who received porn clips immediately complained to the TTD Chairman SV Subba Reddy and Executive Officer Jawahar Reddy.

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High Court orders case against AP IAS officer

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has delivered its order on the recusal petition filed by the YCP Government against Justice Rakesh Kumar. The court said that AP Build Mission Special Officer Praveen Kumar had failed to prove the charges he made against the judge in his affidavit. The IAS officer sought the stepping down of Justice Rakesh Kumar since he made biased statements against the Jaganmohan Reddy Government.

When the court insisted on proof of the judge’s comments, Praveen Kumar’s lawyer could not submit the paper cuttings or TV news clippings. Consequently, the court expressed deep anguish over the indifferent attitude of the Government. It also commented that the Government was needlessly interfering with the judicial matters.

Eventually, the High Court ordered its Registrar to file a case in the police station concerned against Praveen Kumar. The court also instructed the chief judicial magistrate to file a case of contempt of court. This is the first time in recent years that the court issued serious orders against an IAS officer.

Mr. Praveen Kumar told in his affidavit that the judge’s anti-Government comments were published in the Andhra Jyothi newspaper but there was no proof of the same.

Also, in its legal conflicts with the Government, this is the first time that the High Court directly initiated action against a senior officer of the Government.

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Local polls: AP High Court gives 3-day deadline for Jagan Govt

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No wonder, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh is all close to getting involuntarily involved in the day to day administration of the State. In its order today, the High Court ordered the Jagan Reddy Government to send three top level officials to meet with the State Election Commission.

The three officials should meet the SEC within the next three days after receiving the order copy. These officials should also be of the rank of the Principal Secretary. The court orders were with respect to the need for the Government to cooperate with the SEC to conduct the local body elections.

This time, the High Court mentioned even minute details with respect to the implementation of its order. Obviously, the judges were of the opinion that they would have to be specific and targetted in making the Government to implement their orders. Till now, the court orders were not being straightaway implemented in the name of approaching the higher court for appeal.

It is well known that the Jagan regime was unwilling to cooperate till after SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar would retire in March next year. But, as head of an autonomous Constitutional institution, Ramesh decided to hold local polls in February. The Government has been dragging the litigation in the matter by filing one petition or other. Now, the court disposed of the Government petition and ordered for specific action without further delaying local polls.

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AP High Court unhappy with CBI probe into Dr Sudhakar case

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It is well known how the High Court of Andhra Pradesh has been expressing its disappointment at the policies of the Jagan Reddy Government. Now, the High Court has also expressed its dissatisfaction at the probe being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Dr. Sudhakar case. The court ordered the CBI to change the investigating officer and appoint an additional director-level officer to investigate the sensational Dr. Sudhakar case in Visakhapatnam.

The High Court asked the CBI to submit its next detailed report on its investigation by March 31. The hearing was postponed for the first week of April. The court issues these orders after it received the report of the CBI on the investigation that was completed so far.

It may be recalled that the harassment, humiliation and arrest of Dalit doctor Dr. Sudhakar in the middle of the road created a sensation all over the State. The Dalit organisations and the Opposition had led agitations against the manner in which Dr. Sudhakar was persecuted and eventually admitted to the Government Mental Hospital in Vizag.
The investigation was handed over to the CBI following petitions that the AP police would not do justice. Now, none other than the High Court had expressed dissatisfaction on the CBI inquiry as well.

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High Court orders Jagan Govt to follow SEC decision

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The Jaganmohan Reddy Government has received one more blow from the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The court gave its order after hearing both sides on holding the local polls. The High Court said that the decision of State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar would be final. The Government would have to follow his decision and cooperate with him in holding the elections.

The court took the SEC lawyer’s argument into consideration that the Election Commission would change its poll schedule as and when there would be guidelines from the Central Government on the Coronavirus vaccination. As such, the court told the AP Government to start cooperating with the SEC on the poll schedule.

The court had also ordered the Jagan regime to send three senior officers to meet with the SEC for following his instructions on the local polls. The three officers may also brief the SEC about the emerging situation on the vaccination and the virus infections. But, the SEC would take the final decision on conducting the polls. As per the SEC decision, the Government should start taking required measures to implement that decision.

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CM Jagan’s unstoppable plan to shift High Court to Kurnool

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The YCP Government is making unbeatable smart moves to shift the High Court of Andhra Pradesh from Amaravati to Kurnool as early as possible. The Jagan regime is confident that the BJP Government at the Centre would have no objection to this. Moreover, it is just enough for Union Home Ministry to denotify on this issue so that the High Court could be shifted to Kurnool without further hurdles.
During his recent visit to Delhi, CM Jagan had sought Amit Shah’s support for this. The ruling YCP leaders say that the BJP AP unit had made it an election promise to set up the High Court in Kurnool. Now, the Jagan regime was making fast moves to first get the Centre’s support on the shifting of the High Court.
However, there were already stay orders on the formation of 3 Capitals. As such, the stay orders would also be applicable to the High Court shifting issue as well. It is a question now whether the Union Home Ministry would take these state orders into consideration or not.
On its part, the BJP was saying that it was against 3 Capitals. At the same time, they were saying they were committed to the High Court in Kurnool. Whatever, CM Jagan seemed to have focused on shifting the High Court first and then the Executive Capital to Vizag.

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