High court reinstates AP Election commissioner

AP high court orders reinstatement of election commissioner, removed unceremoniously by Jagan

In a major setback for the Jaganmohan Reddy government, the Andhra Pradesh high court on Friday annulled an ordinance that removed Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar from the post of the state election commissioner.

The court has ordered Nimmagadda’s reinstatement with immediate effect, while cancelling the appointment of Justice V Kanagaraj, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, in his place.

Nimmagadda was removed from the office that conducts the local body elections after he postponed the panchayat and municipal polls in the state scheduled in March second half by six weeks, in the wake of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While announcing the SEC decision on March 15, Nimmagadda also directed the shifting of few police officers from their duties for their complacency in acting on the election-related intimidation and violence in some places.  

Following the SEC announcement, Chief Minister Reddy had accused Nimmagadda of being partisan, while attributing caste. Reddy even took the matter to Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan, accusing the SEC of taking the election deferment decision unilaterally without consulting the government on the COVID-19 situation and its management.

The Supreme Court upheld the election postponement in response to the state’s petition.

Thereby on 10 April, the Reddy government brought in an ordinance making changes to the AP Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, curtailing the SEC tenure from five to three years.

Thus, Nimmagadda, appointed in 2016 during the previous TDP tenure and had time till next year had to step down. Nimmagadda petitioned in the high court challenging the ordinance and his removal.

Soon after the HC order, Nimmagadda said that he resumed charge as SEC. “I will discharge my duties fairly and impartially as I did in the past and as mandated. In consultation with the principal stakeholders and all the political parties, I wish to resume the electoral process to the local bodies at the earliest on the return of normalcy,” Nimmagadda said in communication he reportedly sent out.

The reinstated SEC further observed that “individuals are not permanent” but constitutional institutions and the values they represent are.

The HC’s restoration judgment is seen as another judicial embarrassment for Reddy just a day ahead of his one-year anniversary as the Chief Minister.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox