Thursday, February 2, 2023

SC Issues Notice On AP Govt Plea Against Andhra HC Order Quashing Ordinance On State Election Commissioner

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday has issued notice in plea by Andhra Pradesh government against order of Andhra Pradesh High Court quashing ordinance provision curtailing the tenure of State election commissioner from five to three years.

A bench led by the Chief Justice SA Bobde stated that the Court is not satisfied that the motives behind passing such an ordinance were entirely innocent. 

“How can you pass an ordinance like this”, he asked. 

Senior By Rakesh Dwivedi appearing for the Election Commission stated that the High Court has struck down the provision under which incumbent was appointed.

A three-judge Bench comprising of Bench of Chief Justice Bobde, Justice Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy noted that ‘no stay’ will be ordered on the proceedings for now, and also questioned that when the High Court had found the decision to be ultra vires, and the provision for appointment struck down, how can the incumbent continue in his post. 

The Andhra Pradesh government had moved the Supreme Court challenging the state high court’s orders reinstating retired IAS officer Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar as the State Election Commissioner (SEC), and seeking a stay on the same.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had issued an order striking down the ordinance promulgated last month which sought to reduce the tenure of the SEC from five years to three years and appointing a judicial officer of the rank of a high court judge as the SEC. This order is the subject of the present special leave petition before the Apex Court. 

The High Court bench comprising chief justice JK Maheshwari and Justice Satyanarayana Murthy had recently on Friday also struck down two government orders that followed the ordinance removing Ramesh Kumar as SEC and appointing retired judge of Madras high court V Kanagaraj in his place. The high court ruled that Kanagaraj’s appointment was illegal and Ramesh Kumar be allowed to continue for the rest of his tenure.

According to the Andhra Pradesh government that challenged this high court order, it had the powers to appoint the SEC and the appointment of Justice Kanagaraj was rightfully done according to the law and the statute. Therefore, the High Court should set aside the order and allow Justice Kanagaraj to continue as the SEC.

The Andhra Pradesh government had also ignored the circular that was issued by Ramesh Kumar after the High Court’s judgment. According to the circular, Ramesh Kumar has stated that he was resuming charge as the SEC following order of the High Court and would discharge his duties fairly and impartially as mandated, and as done by him in the past.

-India Legal Bureau

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