The Andhra Pradesh High Court, on Saturday, struck down an ordinance to curtail the tenure of AP State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.
The ordinance issued in April this year abruptly ended Mr. Kumar’s term as the SEC immediately after the local body elections were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The High Court orders to reinstate the officer as the State Election Commissioner were passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice J.K. Maheswari and M. Satyanarayana Murthy. The bench dealt with 13 petitions with regard to this case, including the petition filed by Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar himself.
The State Government’s ordinance in April 2020 brought down the term of the SEC from five years to three years. This resulted in Ramesh Kumar ending his term abruptly, as he was appointed in 2016. Further, the ordinance altered the eligibility criteria to take up the responsibility of an Election Commissioner in AP. It deemed that the state Governor must appoint an officer who previously worked as a Judge in a High Court, as per the government’s recommendations.
With its latest orders, the AP High Court also set aside the appointment of V. Kanagaraj as the new Election Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh. It may be recalled that V. Kanagaraj, retired High Court judge was appointed as State Election Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh just hours after Ramesh Kumar’s term ended on 10 April 2020. A 75-year-old Kanagaraj undertook his new responsibilities as the state’s SEC on 11 April 2020.
The State Government’s ordinance in April came in soon after Ramesh Kumar refused to conduct local body elections in Andhra Pradesh due to the coronavirus scare in March 2020. The rural and urban local body local elections were postponed as a precautionary measure to curb spreading of the virus. Subsequently, the Supreme Court upheld the SEC’s decision to postpone the elections on 18 March 2020.
The judgement passed by the High Court was praised by JanaSena Party Chief Pawan Kalyan. The actor-politician stated that the decision has breathed life into democracy in the state and has also strengthened people’s faith on a democratic process.