The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday suspended the schedule announced by the State Election Commission for conducting elections to gram panchayats in four phases next month, observing it would hamper the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The order was issued on a petition by the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government, challenging the schedule, citing the vaccination programme, to be taken up from January 16.
“The SEC has not objectively considered the view of the government and has approached the subject matter in its own domain,” a vacation bench of the high court observed. The court said the gram panchayat elections would hamper the (coronavirus) vaccination programme and, as such, suspended the SEC orders “in the interests of public health”.
The court order is seen as a morale boosting victory for the state government, which has been having a tussle with the SEC N Ramesh Kumar since March last year. He was reinstated as SEC in May after the high court struck down an ordinance of the state government curtailing the tenure of the poll body from five to three years.
Overruling the objections raised by the government, the SEC on Friday night announced the schedule for the polls to be held on February 5, 9, 13 and 17. Ramesh Kumar had announced the schedule hours after his meeting with Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das and other top officials.
Reacting to the announcement, the government had said it was unilateral and amounted to violation of the Supreme Court orders. “The SEC has adamantly announced the poll schedule without considering the state governments views. It is a brazen display of arrogance of power,” Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary G K Dwivedi had said in a statement.