On 18th December, State Election Commissioner of AP Nimmagadda Ramesh filed a contempt petition in the High Court against Principal Secretary G.K. Dwivedi and Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney. The petitioner Nimmagadda Ramesh submitted to the court that the respondents Principal Secretary and Chief Secretary failed to comply with the orders issued by the Hon’ble AP High Court in the writ petition filed by the petitioner.
For the past few months, the SEC and the state government locked horns over conducting the local body elections in the state. The notification for conducting the local body elections was issued on 7th and 9th March 2020. While the process was going on, the SEC decided to postpone the elections with the outbreak of the pandemic. Miffed with the SEC’s decision, the state government approached the Supreme Court wherein the Court disposed of the petition refusing to interfere with the decision of the SEC.
Thereafter, the state government made changes to the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 altering the qualifications and terms of office of SEC. The government even went a step ahead and issued a GO stating that the SEC ceases to hold the office and appointed a new SEC. Nimmagadda approached the AP High Court and got relief wherein the court ordered the state government to reinstate Mr. Ramesh as SEC.
After his reinstatement Nimmagadda issued a notification for conducting the Local Body elections in February 2021 and sought the support of the state government. The state government led by Jagan Reddy failed to extend its support. He even filed a writ petition in the AP High Court regarding the same. Hon’ble AP High Court in its interim order directed the state government to extend necessary support to the SEC for smooth conduct of the elections.
In the meantime, SEC met Governor Biswabushan Harichadan and sought his involvement. He explained to the Governor that he is receiving a lot of criticism from the government. Minister Kodali Nani even abused him using unparliamentary language.
Recently, Nimmagadda Ramesh has written a letter to the Principal Secretary expressing his interest to conduct a video conference with the Collectors and District Election Authorities, Chief Executive Officers of Zilla Praja Parishads, District Panchayat Officers. He requested the Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney to issue necessary instructions to the Collectors and district officials.
The Chief Secretary refused to accept his request and reiterated the state government’s stand that the elections will be conducted only when the danger due to COVID is minimal. This led to a cold war between the SEC and the state government where the former claims that he has all the rights to decide the election schedule, while the latter states that the SEC should seek the decision of the state government before deciding the schedule.
In yesterday’s petition, Nimmagadda Ramesh submitted that the Principal Secretary and Chief Secretary have wilfully violated the orders of the AP High Court and prayed that the court should initiate the contempt proceedings against them.