Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar and Chief Minister Jagan
Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar and Chief Minister Jagan

AP HC comes down strongly on Jagan govt over ‘hostile attitude’ to Election Commission

The State Election Commissioner had claimed in his plea that the government failed to release funds to the Commission, thereby diminishing its independence.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has come down strongly on the state government over the State Election Commission issue, saying it had developed a 'hostile attitude' towards the SEC. The court observed that the state government’s actions were "arbitrary, in abuse of power, position and process of law" and a gross violation of Article 243K of the Constitution.

Justice B Devanand had issued an interim order on Tuesday on a writ petition by the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, requesting that the High Court direct the state government to cooperate and assist in all respects for smooth conduct of affairs of the Commission and its endeavour to hold free and fair elections to the local bodies.

"The state government is unable to digest the fact that Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar was reinstated (as State Election Commissioner). They have chosen not to cooperate with him, which is a poor sign of the state of affairs. The state government should realise that governments come and go, but constitutional institutions are permanent and they require to be protected. Otherwise, the democracy of the nation may suffer immensely," the judge observed.

The SEC in its petition had pointed out that the state government failed to co-operate and provide budget and release funds to discharge its duty to conduct free and fair elections, thereby diminishing and affecting the independence of the Commission.

"This is ex facie illegal, unconstitutional and in abuse of process of law," the petitioner said.

"The action of the state government in failing to render proper assistance and cooperation to facilitate smooth conduct of election process is arbitrary and in abuse of power, position and process of law, as also in gross violation of Article 243K of the Constitution of India," the judge noted.

The court also observed that the state government developed a hostile attitude towards the Commission, pursuant to the postponement of elections on account of the coronavirus outbreak on March 15.

"At every stage, the state government has been creating hurdles, adopting a hostile and non-cooperative attitude," it said.

"In an unprecedented and brazen act, a criminal case was registered against the Commission and its assistant secretary on certain unconnected and strange set of facts and the Commission was raided and election records were seized. The High Court subsequently granted a stay on all further proceedings in the case," the court pointed out.

Many posts in the SEC, like Joint Secretary, Legal Advisor, private secretary and system analyst, were unfilled "for want of assistance and co-operation of the state government, which is a source of serious concern", the judge observed. 

The judge directed the SEC to submit a comprehensive representation to the state government, putting forth their requests and requirements.

"The state government shall provide the same and file the compliance report in the High Court. The state government is further advised to maintain a healthy and positive attitude with the AP SEC," the judge said.

The High Court further observed that the monies spent by the Commission for Justice T Kanakaraj to defend his appointment (as SEC) was "highly unnecessary and unwarranted", as it was public money.

The Commission spent Rs 50 lakh for advocate fees, Rs 24 lakh and Rs 12 lakh for the residence of Kanakaraj, which, the Court said was a "waste of public exchequer".

Kanakaraj, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, was appointed as AP State Election Commissioner in May, but his appointment was annulled by the High Court and the Supreme Court, upon which Ramesh Kumar was reinstated as the SEC.

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