AP Governor Harichandan reinstates Ramesh Kumar as SEC

Gali Nagaraja

Amaravati: The tale of the sacked Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, spiced with the trappings of a nail-biting suspense thriller, has at last ended on a happy note. The denouement came after several twists and turns but without delivering a deadly blow to the thirteen-month old-Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government. 

Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan on Wednesday reinstated Ramesh Kumar as SEC, asking the state government to make necessary arrangements.

The Secretary of the Governor in a letter to Ramesh Kumar on Wednesday said, “The Hon’ble Governor after examining the representation (submitted by Ramesh Kumar on July 27), the order in the contempt case and the Hon’ble High Court order in the W.P. No. 8163 of 2020 has been pleased to direct the government for taking necessary action as per the diction of the Hon’ble High Court of A.P. in its order in the W.P. No.8163 of 2020.”

When the Governor promulgated an ordinance on April 11, stripping Ramesh Kumar of his office, he challenged the ordinance in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The High Court declared the Governor’s ordinance null and void, saying Ramesh Kumar’s removal was “a fraud on power”. The Jagan Reddy government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the high court ruling. But the apex court upheld the high court’s judgment.

Court direction thrown to the winds 

 Even as Ramesh Kumar found no signs of honouring the court direction, he filed a contempt petition in the high court which directed the Governor to see that its direction is implemented. The opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) then criticised the Governor for promulgating the ordinance “in haste” without taking legal opinion on the recommendation of the state government for the ordinance. The Governor’s action triggered a debate on the validity of the said ordinance by quoting the Article 243 (K) (2) of the Constitution–subject to the provisions of any law made by the Legislature of a State the conditions of service and tenure of office of the State Election Commissioner shall be such as the Governor may by rule determine: Provided that the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in the like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of a High Court and the conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. 

Expert opinions 

Quoting the high court judgement (para-318), Jandhyala Ravi Shankar, a legal expert, said the Governor in his capacity as the appointing authority, should have straight away restored Ramesh Kumar to his position as the SEC without directing the state government, thus putting a full stop to the running controversy.

Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, TDP’s leader of opposition in the A.P. Legislative Council, asked the YSRC government to execute the Governor’s direction and help avert a constitutional breakdown in the state.

The Governor’s action seemingly serves as a pointer to the hiccups that the Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy’s priority agenda containing shifting of the capital from Amaravati and abrogation of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council may face in the near future. The state government’s bills relating to the scrapping of the Capital Region Development Authority and distributive capitals are presently pending with the Governor. The ruling party expected that the bills would come out of the Raj Bhavan without any hassles as the ordinance pertained to Ramesh Kumar’s removal had its way. The BJP state leadership threw its weight behind Ramesh Kumar and the three capitals proposal as well. It is to be noted that BJP’s former state minister Kamineni Srinivas was one of the petitions who challenged in the court the sacking of Ramesh Kumar. Given the BJP’s stakes in the capital issue, the Governor may send the capitals’ bills to the President that may take a longer time for getting his assent. Similarly, the proposal regarding the abolition of the Legislative Council is also pending with the Centre.  

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