Vijayawada: In a swift political development, the Andhra Pradesh government on Friday promulgated an ordinance reducing the tenure of State Election Commissioner (SEC) to three years, thereby bringing a sudden end to the term of incumbent N Ramesh Kumar, who has completed four years.
The government will instead henceforth appoint a retired High Court judge as the new SEC and complete the formalities of oath taking and assumption of office by Saturday morning itself to gain some strength as its decision is bound to come under judicial scrutiny.
The YSRC-led Andhra Pradesh government has been maintaining utmost secrecy in this regard. It did put its orders in the public domain but under the category of ‘confidential’, which prevents others from accessing them.
Sources said the government is pinning hopes on Mr Ramesh Kumar himself, who it thinks would not challenge his cessation in a court of law.
“Even if someone else challenges, we have a strong case because Mr Kumar established beyond doubt that he is biased and was targeting the YSR Congress,” sources close to the CM pointed out.
Chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had earlier vented out his anger openly against the SEC for postponing local body polls scheduled last month, citing need for social distancing in the wake of spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).
The ruling party was upset with a letter purported to have been written by the SEC to the Ministry of Home Affairs, wherein chief minister Reddy was described as a “faction leader” and ruling party leaders as “goons”.
The opposition parties, however, raised a united voice against the government for removing Mr Kumar in an “unconstitutional manner.”
Telugu Desam Party Rajya Sabha member K Ravindra Kumar said the party has been exploring every option, including moving the High Court.
Describing the CM’s decision as an “act of vengeance”, state BJP president Kanna Lakshminarayana dashed off a letter to Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan, urging him to “stop the undemocratic act”. The Jana Sena and Left parties too condemned it.
It is evident that the government has taken the route of trimming the tenure through an ordinance as an impeachment of the SEC has to be done only with approval of the Parliament. Article 243 K of the Constitution clearly lays down that the procedure of removing an SEC is similar to that of removing a judge of a High Court.
Explaining the legal position, L Ravichander, senior High Court counsel, said that the Constitution is clear that “the conditions of service of a State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his or her disadvantage after appointment.”