Ramesh Kumar had been removed from his post after an ordinance shortening the SEC’s tenure was promulgated by the state government.

Ramesh KumarFile photo/PTI
news Court Friday, May 29, 2020 - 13:32

Andhra Pradesh High Court has set aside the ordinance promulgated by the state government, shortening the tenure of the State Election Commissioner from five to three years. Through the ordinance, the state government had removed Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar from the SEC post, and had posted former Madras HC judge Justice V Kanagaraj in his place.

Hearing a petition from Ramesh Kumar challenging the ordinance, the Andhra Pradesh HC has now set it aside, directing the government to reinstate Ramesh Kumar as the SEC. High Court advocate Jandhyala Ravi Shankar told TV9, “The court has said that the government does not have the authority to cut the tenure short. The court has set aside the orders for removing Ramesh Kumar and for appointing Kanagaraj.”

The state government had brought in the ordinance in April, which amended Section 200 of the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, and thereby shortening the tenure of the SEC from 5 to 3 years, and deposing Ramesh Kumar for the post. This was preceded by multiple controversies between Ramesh Kumar and the YSRCP government. 

In the lead up to the local body polls earlier scheduled towards the end of March (and now postponed indefinitely), Ramesh Kumar as SEC had announced the postponement of the elections as a precautionary measure in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While announcing the postponement, he also noted that there had been several incidents of violence in the state, with candidates from opposition parties allegedly being intimidated into dropping their nominations. Alleging police inaction, he had also recommended the transfer of police officers and district officials involved. 

The state government took objection to Ramesh Kumar’s decision, and moved the Supreme Court. While the SC upheld Ramesh Kumar’s decision to postpone elections, it allowed the relaxation of the election Model Code of Conduct. A few days later, a letter written by Ramesh Kumar to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs surfaced. In the controversial letter, he made several serious allegations against various YSRCP leaders, and sought protection claiming that there was a threat to his life and his family members from the ruling YSRCP government. 

Eventually in April, Ramesh Kumar was deposed after the tenure was shortened by the state government. According to reports, Ramesh Kumar has responded to the HC verdict saying he has resumed charge as the SEC.

Apart from Ramesh Kumar, several others had also filed petitions challenging the ordinance, including former state Ministers Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao, Kamineni Srinivas, and CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna.