In a setback of sorts for chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has ordered the reinstatement of N. Ramesh Kumar as State Election Commissioner, setting aside the appointment of retired Justice V Kanagaraju from Tamil Nadu by state government two months back.
The HC has also set aside an ordinance amending the Panchayati Raj Act to reduce the State Election Commissioner’s (SEC) tenure from five to three years.
Ramesh was removed under controversial circumstances after he postponed local body elections for six weeks when the coronavirus outbreak was taking hold in the state. The government alleged Ramesh’s actions were politically motivated.
On Friday a division bench of the Andhra High Court, comprising Chief Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice M Satyanaryana Murthy set aside various government orders replacing him with Justice Kanagaraju, a retired judge of the Madras High Court.
The reinstatement is with immediate effect and till the end of his term, the court said, noting the state government did not have the authority to curtail the tenure of the SEC.
The court delivered the judgment on a batch of petitions, including one by Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, challenging the ordinance and the appointment of a new SEC.
Earlier this month the elections, initially postponed till April 26, were deferred for as second time, the State Election Commission announced. The notification which said polls would be postponed till further orders was issued by Justice Kanagaraj.
Amid a coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 1.6 lakh people across the country, the YSR Congress completed one year in power this week.
In its statement on the occasion, the state said Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had implemented a “slew of welfare and development programmes” and fulfilled “90 per cent of its poll promises”, adding that it had also emerged as a role model in combating the novel coronavirus.
Andhra has reported over 3,200 COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths so far. As of May 26, there are nearly 15,000 people in quarantine in the state.
-India Legal Bureau