The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday struck down an ordinance promulgated by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government last month, shortening the tenure of the state election commissioner from five to three years, PTI reported. The ordinance had led to the expulsion of Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar from the post and the state government had appointed retired Madras High Court judge V Kanagaraju in his place.
A bench comprising Chief Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice M Satyanarayana Murthy directed that Kumar must be reinstated as the state’s election commissioner with immediate effect.
The court was hearing a batch of writ petitions, including the one filed by Kumar, challenging the ordinance and the appointment of a new state election commissioner. “The court ruled that the state government did not have the authority to curtail the tenure of the SEC [state election commissioner],” advocate Jandhyala Ravi Shankar, who appeared on behalf of one of the petitioners, said. “It also set aside the appointment of the new SEC. The court considered all our arguments in this regard.”
Soon after the judgement, Kumar resumed office as the state election commissioner, ANI reported. “I will discharge my duties fairly and impartially as I did in the past and as mandated,” he said. Kumar added that electoral process for the local body polls would be resumed as soon as normalcy was restored in the state, which is combating the coronavirus crisis like other parts of India.
Kumar had postponed elections to urban and rural local bodies on March 15 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The state government alleged that his actions were politically motivated. On April 10, the YSR Congress Party government abruptly removed Kumar from the post by promulgating the ordinance and amending the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994.
Subsequently, the state government also filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Kumar’s decision, but the court endorsed the move to defer elections.