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Jagan gimmick to make Nilam Sawhney new SEC


There seems to be the same old disqualification tactic employed by the ruling YCP leaders in the selection of the new State Election Commissioner. As per the guidelines, the YCP Government sent a list of three names to Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan for finalising the new SEC. The list contained the names of retired IAS officers Samuel and Premchandra Reddy in addition to Nilam Sawhney.

However, Sawhney’s name was finally approved citing reasons of disqualification of the remaining two enlisted retired officers. The rules say that the retired IAS officers who crossed 65 years of age cannot be permitted to become the Election Commissioners.

It was found out that both Samuel and Premchandra Reddy have crossed the age limit. Hence, their candidature for the SEC post became untenable. Now questions are being raised whether the Government did not check the ineligibility of Samuel and Premchandra Reddy before putting their names on the list that was sent to the Governor.

Doubts are there whether the Government deliberately made Nilam Sawhney the new SEC in order to take its sweet revenge against the outgoing SEC Ramesh Kumar. It was Nilam who defied Ramesh Kumar’s orders and eventually facing contempt of court cases.

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Kodali can speak to media but should not insult SEC


It has become a regular ritual for the ruling YCP Ministers to get involved in cases but soon find relief from the courts. Now, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh has cancelled the order of State Election Commissioner Ramesh Kumar who banned Minister Kodali Nani from speaking to the media.

The High Court has given permission to Kodali to speak to the media. But at the same time, the court has ordered him not to pass comments on the SEC. Also, the court has just given interim orders on this issue. The SEC lawyer has argued that the Minister made insulting comments against the SEC at his press conference dated 12-2-2021. Kodali’s comments were in the manner of making the SEC look like an inefficient institution in the eyes of the public.

The SEC lawyer further argued that a person occupying the high post of a Minister should maintain self restraint and should give respect to a constitutional institution like the Election Commission.

However, the Minister’s lawyer told the court that the SEC has powers only with regard to the conduct of the election process. The SEC cannot take away the Minister’s right to freedom of expression.

On hearing both sides, the court gave interim orders giving relief to the Minister. A similar order was given in respect of Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy in the past.

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Peddireddy defies SEC, come out of house to welcome CM


In asserting his loyalty to CM Jagan Reddy, senior Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy is launching constant attacks and openly violating all orders of the State Election Commission. SEC Ramesh Kumar has ordered the DGP to keep Peddireddy restrained to his home till February 21. But today, the Minister came out of his house to receive Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy who is coming to Chittoor district as part of the President’s visit.

Peddireddy has visited Tirupati airport. On the other hand, SEC Ramesh Kumar has written to the Union Home Secretary about the flagrant violations by the Minister. The SEC has sought the advice of the Union Home Ministry following non stop attacks by Minister Peddireddy on the constitutional institution of the election commission.

Meanwhile, Minister Peddireddy has moved a house motion before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday. He sought cancellation of the SEC orders. From the beginning, Peddireddy has been openly passing critical comments against SEC Ramesh Kumar.

Many other YCP leaders have stopped launching direct attacks on the SEC after the election code came into effect. But Peddireddy continued his all out attack.

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Ramesh will face 3-year jail term: Minister Peddireddy


The ego battle between the YCP and the State Election Commissioner has turned uglier. Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy has started a personal level attack at SEC Ramesh Kumar. The SEC is just like any other officer working in the Government. Whereas, the Minister has higher powers. The SEC cannot issue an order for not allowing a Minister to move out of his residence during the elections.

Peddireddy further asserted that Ramesh Kumar would have to appear before the Assembly Privileges Committee sooner or later. There would be no way the SEC can escape from the 3 year jail punishment for all his wrongdoings. Ramesh Kumar was thinking himself to be the President of India.

Minister Peddireddy’s comment on the SEC orders has triggered a huge controversy. The Minister has threatened all those election officials and District Collector who follow the SEC orders would face serious action in future. The SEC has ordered action against the Minister saying he should not be allowed to move out.
Peddireddy now says Ramesh Kumar has been carrying out only the orders of Chandrababu Naidu and they are not acceptable for the YCP.

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Ramesh gives colours twist to Jagan ration vehicles


The YCP’s fascination for giving its party flag colours to the public property has given it many troubles and embarrassments. The YCP colours on the panchayat buildings have been dragged to the court in the past. Now, once again, the colours issue came to the fore. State Election Commissioner Ramesh Kumar issued fresh orders asking the Government to change the colours on the ration door vehicles.
In the beginning, based on the High Court orders, Ramesh Kumar allowed ration delivery through the vehicles. But, objections came pouring in that the YCP colours on the ration vehicles were having an impact on the voters. Wherever the panchayat elections were being held, the Government was asked not to use the present vehicles in their present condition to deliver the ration items.

Already, the SEC has put objections to the use of CM Jagan Reddy photos on the vehicles. Accordingly, the officials took suitable measures to hide the CM photos during ration distribution in the election-bound villages.
Ramesh Kumar’s order would be final in this respect. The YCP would have no say any further other than that it would have to approach the court once again. In its previous order itself, the High Court instructed the SEC to inspect the ration vehicles and give permission by making suitable suggestions.

The SEC instructed the officials to change colours to other those being used by the political parties. Going by this, the blue, green, yellow, red colours would have to be avoided considering their prominent use in the parties’ flags. The colours problem arose for the first in AP in the entire country only after the YCP started using its party colours on the Government buildings and property against which the Opposition parties were approaching the court.

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Andhra govt shifts out Tirupati JEO following SEC’s temple visit


Andhra Pradesh government shunted out the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams’ (TTD) Joint Executive Officer (JEO) P. Basant Kumar, following a visit by the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.

“The following transfer is ordered with immediate effect: The service of Basant Kumar, JEO, TTD, are withdrawn from Revenue (endowments) with immediate effect and he is directed to report to the government in General Administration Department for further posting,” Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das said in an order.

Kumar is a 2007 batch Indian Administrative Service Officer (IAS).

Das directed TTD executive officer (EO) Jawahar Reddy to make internal arrangements for fill the post of JEO until further orders.

Basant Kumar was meanwhile ordered to continue his deputation with the State Election Commission in the Panchayati elections to discharge duties as Observer for Nellore district.

The Jaganmohan Reddy-led state government and the SEC continue to be at loggerheads over several issues in the ensuing elections.

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YSRCP requests SEC to refrain from using alleged private election app


Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) requested the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar to choose an application (mobile app) developed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and not any alleged private app to monitor the panchayat polls on Friday.

“It is hereby requested that the SEC for the state of AP may choose the apps created by the central election commission (ECI)aand desist from placing reliance on private entity,” said YSRCP general secretary Lella Appi Reddy.

He alleged that Kumar had disclosed about an app developed by the state election commission during a video conference with the district collectors which has been notified for use in the election process.

Reddy reminded that state government app, Nigha, already exists for this purpose while there were no details of the private app developed by the commission in the public domain.

Noting that the creating of a new app in the current circumstances is objectionable, he said that brining up such an app involves invitation of tender, collection of details like the name of the company, design, creation, hosting server, data accuracy, resolution mechanism and approval from the state machinery.

“Transparency in the development of app is vital and the right of the public if any public money is spent and is going to decide the rights of the public,” the YSRCP leader highlighted.

Reddy said the exercise of creating a new app at a time when the election process has already commenced is suspicious and lacks transparency.

According to the political party leader, the state election commission does not have the technical resources of its own to develop an app.

He also said that if the election commission is so keen on using an app, it could have chosen the Central alternative, CVIGIL, to the state app Nigha.

“CVIGIL gives live access to the server which makes it foolproof. Moreover, it is not safe if an app developed and being hosted on a private server, as the sensitive information related to the elections will be controlled by a private entity and may lead to mishandling, malpractice, loss or pilferage of sensitive data,” he added.

Reddy stressed that there was no need to bring a new app which may jeopardise sensitive data when the state and Central election apps already exist.

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Peddireddy demands Ramesh to act against Naidu


The panchayat elections are being held on a ‘partyless’ basis. This means there should be no political interference or participation. But Chandrababu Naidu released his party manifesto for the elections. Quickly seizing this opportunity, YCP Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy demanded State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar to take action against Naidu if he was really unbiased.
The YCP has been accusing Ramesh Kumar of being an agent of Chandrababu for a long time now. The TDP manifesto came as a big chance for it to attack the SEC once again.
The TDP manifesto was named ‘Palle Pragathi – Pancha Sutralu’ (Five Plans for Village Growth). After releasing this, Naidu gave a call for all the panchayats to elect his party-supported candidates for achieving better and cleaner villages.
Naidu argued that the elections might be partyless but the political influence would be there in every aspect of life. The panchayat elections were actually indirect in nature and the candidates would be getting support from one party or another.
The TDP’s five plans for village future development would focus on protected drinking water, safety assurance, model villages, self-sufficiency and citizen services with reduction in property tax. Each of the 15,000 panchayats would get Rs. 70 lakh to Rs. 80 lakh funds under the NREGS scheme directly from the Centre. Also, Finance Commission funds were also being directly given to the villages.
Naidu talked as if the villages could function better with their self-government without the need for the State Government funds. Expectedly, Peddireddy reacted sharply to this.

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Andhra govt employees threaten to boycott panchayat polls


Hours after the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Saturday issued a notification for the four-phase panchayat polls, the state government employees associations representatives threatened to boycott the elections because of the pandemic.

The employees representatives said they would see how many employees the SEC terminates.

“Government employees in Andhra Pradesh have risked their lives to control the coronavirus. Instead of appreciating, you are threatening to terminate and suspend us. We oppose this step. If you go ahead with the state panchayat polls, chaos may prevail across the state. So please cancel your election notification,” said an employees representative.

The Andhra SEC on Saturday notified the schedule for four phase rural local body elections whose nomination process would begin in the next two days.

The employee drew attention to the special care Kumar took while addressing the media earlier on Saturday. He had fixed a glass partition on his table and wore a mask to protect himself from the virus.

“Is your life so important without caring for our lives. While addressing the media, you spoke from behind a glass, all the people in the state watched it. Should we discharge election duties and lose our lives,” he asked the Andhra SEC.

He warned the SEC that if he goes ahead not paying heed to the appeal by the employees, then he would face difficulties.

“So do not scare us and cause paranoia. We will see how many employees you will terminate,” he said.

The representative reminded the SEC about what he did more than two years ago when the panchayat polls were supposed to be held then.

“Why didn’t you conduct the elections back then. Why are you trying to kill all of us by conducting the elections amid the pandemic,” he added.

He appealed to Kumar not to risk the lives of employees, adding that they would undertake election duties only after receiving the vaccination jabs.

Another employees representative said that they are scared at the rapid pace at which the SEC is proceeding to conduct the polls amid the pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.

“I appreciate the care Kumar took for himself to ward off coronavirus by fixing a glass partition. Will he provide similar protection to employees?” he asked.

Despite taking similar care, he said, many employees succumbed to the virus, including a general medicine professor in a medical college in Visakhapatnam.

Mandating the employees to urgently take up election duty amid the pandemic is a huge discouragement as most of them are waiting to receive the vaccine.

Another representative said that the SEC postponed the polls in March 2020 when there were fewer infections but is eager to conduct them when the vaccination drive is taking place.

“People are not ready to cooperate, officers are not ready to cooperate. Life is more important, take back your decision. It will not be good if the SEC goes ahead obstinately,” he opined.

These elections were originally supposed to be held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back, but Kumar chose not to hold them.

However, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the nod citing the coronavirus pandemic which led to a major standoff between the two.

THe Chief Minister accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, during whose tenure as the Chief Minister he was appointed. Reddy had tried to replace him which backfired as the SEC has constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months to go as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government has opposed citing the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination drive.

The Supreme Court might take a decision on Monday on the state government’s petition to postpone the elections.

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Jagan consults experts, unwilling to cooperate with SEC


The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has already clearly told the AP Government to give necessary cooperation to the State Election Commission for conducting panchayat polls. The Government argued that Coronavirus vaccination was important but the court asserted that the elections were equally important.

Still, CM Jaganmohan Reddy appears adamant not to cooperate with SEC Ramesh Kumar. The SEC is going ahead with his announcement on poll notification. Now, the Chief Minister is just consulting the legal experts and senior IAS officers how to face the consequences once the SEC issues notification.

No doubt, it would be very difficult to reverse the situation once the poll notification is issued. It is because the State Election Commission is a constitutional institution which is vested with autonomous powers. Already, the High Court order is there instructing the AP Government to work under the SEC to conduct the polls.

Amid these embarrassing developments, the Chief Minister is still not wanting to let the SEC conduct the elections. Once again, the Government began the same old argument for postponing the elections for two months till after the vaccination. This argument was put before the court which had however allowed the SEC to hold the poll.
If the CM will not soften his stand, one more constitutional crisis will be created now.

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Will AP CS, DGP, Collectors, SP cooperate with SEC?


The courts may be constantly intervening but the cold war is continuing between the Jagan Reddy Government and State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar. The High Court may have ordered for conducting the local body elections. Still, the ruling party Ministers were criticising the SEC.

In the face of these differences, Nimmagadda has decided to depend solely on letter correspondence with the AP Chief Secretary and the AP Government. This will hold good throughout the local body polls. As such, the SEC is writing a fresh letter to the AP CS about the coordination meetings to be conducted on the poll process.
Towards this end, the SEC office has communicated that the elections will be conducted at the earliest. Ramesh Kumar is already holding meetings with his office staff on the fresh dates to be finalised for the future poll process.

Towards this end, the SEC is going to hold a meeting with the CS, the DGP, the District Collectors and SPs in a day or two. The whole problem is this. All these officials are under total grip of the YCP leaders. They are totally scared to cross the line drawn by the CM and his advisors. Now the big question is whether they would attend the SEC meeting or not.
If these top officials do not cooperate with the SEC, this time their actions will amount to the contempt of the court.

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AP SEC moves house motion against single bench


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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War of words as Andhra SEC announces rural local polls schedule


A controversy has erupted between the Andhra Pradesh government and the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar when the latter allegedly unilaterally declared the schedule for conducting the rural local body elections.

On Friday, state Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das wrote to the SEC that the halted rural local body elections could be resumed once the vaccination programme starts rolling and coronavirus is managed.

“Once this pandemic is tackled with vaccination, the state would agree to any schedule of resumption of the halted local election process. In view of the wellbeing of the people of Andhra Pradesh, the SEC may consider the request of state government,” said Das.

He met the SEC along with other officials to present the state government’s viewpoint. However, the SEC went ahead and declared the election schedule.

A host of ruling YSRCP leaders lashed out at Kumar for the decision at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is still raging and infecting people, including the new second wave emerging with the new strain.

“Everybody knows that Kumar is acting on somebody else’s behest along with a personal motive. What is unfortunate is that he is putting people’s lives at risk,” said Agriculture Minister Kurasala Kannababu.

The Minister alleged that Kumar is behaving in such a way that he wants his agenda to prevail at any cost, disregarding public health.

“At a time when there was no coronavirus effect, he postponed the polls. Now when the state government is highlighting that there is Covid and vaccination… even curfews in some cities, he has still unilaterally declared elections, indicating that he has a personal agenda or somebody else’s influence on him,” Kannababu opined.

He questioned why Kumar did not conduct elections during the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime.

“You behave in one way when Chandrababu Naidu was in power and another way when Jagan Mohan Reddy is in power,” Kannababu said.

A large number of government employees associations have also told Kumar to reconsider his decision in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

They highlighted that at present, during winter, when a second wave of the pandemic is feared to strike with a new strain, the SEC cannot go ahead with the panchayat elections ignoring the health and well-being of lakhs of families.

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AP SEC so helpless, starts writing letters to Governor


For over a thousand times and more, State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar has asserted that the SEC is a constitutional institution that was vested with autonomous powers. But none of his decisions were being respected or implemented in the State.
The Governor’s office is also a constitutional institution. As such, the SEC has several times met and briefed him about the decisions on the local body elections. The SEC has even approached the court which issued orders in support of his decision to conduct polls in February. Even then, the Jagan Reddy Government did not bother to respect the existence of the State Election Commission in the State.
What more, the Jagan regime went to the extreme extent of passing a resolution in the Assembly against the SEC decision on the local body polls. Now, Nimmagadda has apparently lost his patience over his helplessness in front of the adamance of CM Jagan Reddy. He said that the Assembly resolution was unconstitutional. He wrote a letter straightaway to the Governor.
Ramesh Kumar said that the SEC has to conduct polls every five years. It was wrong to say that the SEC must take consent of the Government for this.

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AP High Court declines Govt plea for stay on SEC polls


Once again, the YCP Government has faced yet another setback in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The court has refused to give stay orders on the decision of State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar to hold local body elections in February. The Government has pleaded with the court to postpone the elections in view of Coronavirus.
During the arguments, the SEC’s lawyer Aswini Kumar has said that the local body elections will be held in February itself as per the earlier orders of the High Court only. The Government’s lawyer said that the administrative machinery was not ready for holding the elections and the same has been communicated to the SEC.
The confrontation between the SEC and the Jagan regime is continuing unabated with no solution in sight. Ultimately, it seems the Government will continue the litigation on this aspect till Ramesh Kumar retires in March next year. The CM and the ruling party Ministers have given ample indications to this effect already.
Going by the past experiences, analysts say that the Government would also drag this local body elections issue also to the Supreme Court of India to buy time. Eventually, CM Jagan will be able to fulfill his desire not to allow Nimmagadda to hold elections.

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Did SEC ask you to stop welfare schemes: SC to AP govt


The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Andhra Pradesh government to inform the state election commission and seek its approval in grounding welfare schemes and programmes.
Mukul Rohtagi, counsel for the Andhra Pradesh government, appealed to the Supreme Court to direct the state election commission to allow the welfare schemes and programs to continue in the state. Mukul Rohtagi appealed to the Supreme  Court to direct SEC to lift and revoke the temporary ban on executing welfare programmes. He said currently there is no model code of conduct, but the state government’s welfare programmes got hindered.
To this, the Supreme Court CJI  Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde asked the AP government counsel if the election commission barred the government from executing its welfare programmes. “Did the state election commission stop the government from going ahead with the welfare programmes,” Justice Bobde asked the state counsel. Further, Justice Bobde observed that it was imperative for the state government to consult the election commission before continuing welfare programmes.
On March 17, the Supreme Court upheld the SEC decision to postpone local body elections in the state but lifted the Model Code of Conduct. The State Election Commission (SEC) had postponed the election process of MPTC/ZPTC and urban local bodies citing the threat of Covid-19 pandemic.  In a tearing hurry, the Jagan government promulugated the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 to reduce the term of SEC to three years from five years. The Andhra Pradesh government removed Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar as SEC and retired Tamil Nadu judge Justice Kangaraj. The AP HC had directed the state government to reinstate Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar as the State election Commissioner (SEC), and also struck down the government’s appointment of Kangaraj as the SEC.

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Ramesh Kumar stand vindicated: SEC further extends postponement of polls to civic bodies

In what can been seen as a vindication to the stand taken by Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the State Election Commission has further postponed the elections to civic bodies in Andhra Pradesh. A notification to this effect was issued by the State Election Commission on Wednesday .

The State Election Commission in its notification on Wednesday stated that it was postponing the polls to civic bodies in light of the spread of the virus. The fresh notification issued by SEC comes as the earlier notification issued Ramesh Kumar ended on April 30. On March 15, Ramesh Kumar had postponed the elections to MPTCs and ZPTCs which were originally scheduled for March 21 .The elections were put off for six weeks from March 15. With Andhra Pradesh witnessing double digits surge in infections across the state and , the SEC on Wednesday decided to postpone the elections. Further, the SEC also stated that it took the decision to further postpone the polls since the matter was in the High Court.

Soon after the elections were put off, Ramesh Kumar had come under sharp criticism from the ruling party MLAs and ministers. Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had met Governor Bishwabhushan Harichandan and termed Ramesh Kumar’s decision to put off polls as “arbitrary”. On his part, Ramesh Kumar had submitted a detailed report to Governor Bishwabhushan Harichandan. In the report, Ramesh Kumar stated that the commission had exercised its plenary powers under Articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution to put on hold the election process for a period of six weeks or till the threat of Covid-19 is arrested or declined and normalcy restored. The State Election Commissioner said his decisions were strictly as per statute and judgments of High Court and Supreme Court.

Fears a threat to his life and that of his family members from the ruling dispensation in Andhra Pradesh, Ramesh Kumar wrote a five-page letter to Union Home Ministry seeking police protection. He complained to the Home Ministry the CM and his colleagues were indulging in personal attacks against him.

In what was seen as vendetta politics, the State government had removed Ramesh Kumar as SEC by amending the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act-1994 and cut short the tenure of SEC from five to three years. The government later had appointed Madras High Court retired justice Kangaraj as new commissioner. Ramesh Kumar moved the High Court challenging the government’s decision to remove him terming it unconstitutional.

In the recent arguments in the High Court, the AG informed the court that the petitioner Ramesh Kumar took the decision to defer the civic polls without consulting the State government officials concerned. The AG asserted that the ordinance amending the AP Panchayat Raj Act was issued as part of electoral reforms. Further, the AG argued that the State government brought in the Ordinance under Article 243 (K) of the Constitution. The government contended that under Article 243 (K) (2), tenure of the SEC doesn’t come under service conditions and argued that it was well within its rights to take a decision on the SEC.

Ramesh Kumar argued that the SEC had the discretionary powers to defer the elections to civic bodies and was under no obligation to reveal the factors that led to the postponement of the elections. Hearing the arguments of both the sides, the High Court asked if the state government amended the municipal act. “If you have not amended the municipal act, it means Ramesh Kumar continues to be the state election commissioner?,” the court asked the AG.

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