Justice Kanagaraj appointed as new Andhra Pradesh poll chief


Nation, Current Affairs

The YSRC government in AP had abruptly removed N Ramesh Kumar from the post by amending the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994

Justice Kanagaraj takes charge as the Andhra Pradesh Election Commissioner, at the State Election Commission (SEC) office in Vijayawada. (Image via ANI Twitter)

Amaravati: Justice V Kanagaraj, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, on Saturday assumed charge as the State Election Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh.

The swift developments that began on Friday evening with the promulgation of an Ordinance amending Section 200 of the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, leading to the removal of incumbent SEC N Ramesh Kumar, culminated on Saturday with Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan issuing a notification appointing Justice Kanagaraj as the new State Election Commissioner.

"In terms of Ordinance No. 5 of 2020, dated 10-4-2020, and consequent on cessation of tenure of the incumbent State Election Commissioner, and in terms of amended Section 200 of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, I, Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh hereby appoint Sri Justice V Kanagaraj, Retired High Court Judge, as the State Election Commissioner for a tenure of three years from the date of assumption of office," the Governor's notification said.

Justice Kanagaraj immediately assumed charge "in obedience of the orders" and later called on the Governor at the Raj Bhavan and presented his "charge assumption" report.

Government sources called the appointment of Justice Kanagaraj a "new paradigm in Indian governance system" as there raged a bigger debate on whether a retired bureaucrat or a judge should be the State Election Commissioner.

The YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh on Friday abruptly removed State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar from the post by promulgating an Ordinance, amending the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, curtailing the tenure of the SEC to three years from five.

"In pursuance of promulgation of Ordinance No.5 of 2020, Dr N Ramesh Kumar, IAS (Retd), the incumbent State Election Commissioner ceases to hold the office of State Election Commissioner on and with effect from 10.04.2020," Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said in a "confidential" order.

The developments came in the backdrop of a feud between the chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and the SEC after the latter postponed the elections to rural and urban local bodies on March 15 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jagan complained against him to the Governor.

The state government subsequently filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the SEC's decision but the apex court only endorsed the deferment of polls.

Ramesh Kumar later wrote to the Union Home Secretary alleging a threat to his life and also listing out the irregularities committed by the ruling YSR Congress in the rural and urban local bodies' election process.