Andhra Pradesh High Court suspends State Election Commission local body poll announcement for lack of State consultation, public health

The Court found that the order announcing the elections was not a pragmatic decision and was made without decisional consultation with the State government.
Andhra Pradesh High Court suspends State Election Commission local body poll announcement for lack of State consultation, public health
DR N Ramesh Kumar, Andhra Pradesh High Court

In a setback to the State Election Commission (SEC), the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday set aside its order announcing local body elections and the imposition of the election Model Code of Conduct across the State (State of AP v. SEC and Others).

Upon a prima facie consideration, a Bench of Justice M Ganga Rao found that the order announcing the elections was not a pragmatic decision and was made without decisional consultation with the state government, as was mandated by the Supreme Court.

The 1st respondent issued the impugned order without preceded by pragmatic decision, based on the decisional consultation with the state government...The 1st respondent failed to consider the inputs supplied by the 1st respondent government (the petitioner) objectively, in its proper perspective...
Andhra Pradesh High Court

Remarking that the SEC failed to consider the State's inputs objectively and in its proper perspective, the Court proceeded to declare that the order violated Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution.

The Court also opined that the polls would constitute a hindrance to the mammoth vaccination programme undertaken by the Union of India and the states to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Setting aside the order in the interest of public health, the Court has posted the matter for February 15, 2021.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy government approached the High Court following the Andhra Pradesh Assembly's house motion opposing the SEC's order announcing polls.

In its writ petition, the State government avers that the Commissioner's order was based on consideration of material extraneous to record, arbitrary and irrational rejection of the views of the government, and on surmises, conjectures, and assumptions, vitiated by malice in law.

Declaring the order as vitiated by arbitrariness, the State government urged the High Court to stay the same.

Advocate General Sri Sriram and Standing Counsel N Ashwani Kumar appeared for the State. Assistant Solicitor General N Harinath represented the Central government.

State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar and the Andhra Pradesh government have been at loggerheads for a while now, with the Supreme Court eventually having to intefere.

In May last year, the High Court struck down an Ordinance cutting short the tenure of the SEC, effectively reinstating Kumar to the post.

During the hearing of the appeal against this order, the Supreme Court remarked that it was not convinced that the State government's motive behind passing such an Ordinance was "entirely innocent".

DR N Ramesh Kumar, Andhra Pradesh High Court
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The apex court also pulled up the State government for failing to comply with the High Court's order to reinstate Kumar as Commissioner.

Read the Order

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State of Andhra Pradesh v. The State Election Commissioner and Ors. - Order dated January 11.pdf
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