SC refuses to stay Andhra HC order on state Election Commissioner row

The Supreme Court has sought responses from the State Election Commission and Ramesh Kumar, who was removed from the post of Election Commissioner.
Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar
Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order, which struck down an ordinance by the YSRCP government curtailing the tenure of the State Election Commissioner (SEC) from 5 to 3 years. The SC has now sought a response from the State Election Commission and N Ramesh Kumar, whom the court directed the government  to restore as the SEC. 

The ordinance promulgated by the state government on April 10 had resulted in removing Ramesh Kumar from the post of SEC. Justice V Kanagaraj, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, had assumed charge as the SEC on April 11 in Ramesh Kumar’s place. The Andhra Pradesh HC, while striking down the ordinance on May 29, also quashed the Government Order for Kangaraj’s appointment, and directed the government to reinstate Ramesh Kumar as the SEC. 

The High Court had delivered the judgment on a batch of writ petitions, including the one by Ramesh Kumar, challenging the ordinance and the appointment of a new SEC.

The state government had then moved the SC, challenging the HC order. A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy refused to stay the order on Wednesday, seeking response from Ramesh Kumar and the State Election Commission.

The YSRCP government had on April 10 abruptly removed Ramesh Kumar from the post by promulgating the ordinance, amending the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 and curtailing the tenure of the SEC. 

This was preceded by much controversy between Ramesh Kumar and the YSRCP government. The state government had differed with Ramesh Kumar’s decision as the SEC to postpone the local body polls due to the coronavirus pandemic. While announcing the decision to postpone the elections, Ramesh Kumar had also alleged that the YSRCP government, and a few district and police authorities were enabling poll-related violence against candidates from opposition parties. 

He later wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs alleging threat to his life from the ruling YSRCP, and seeking additional protection. The ordinance curtailing the SEC’s term was promulgated a few weeks later, on April 10. 

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