The order of the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission (APSEC) calling for an enquiry into the unanimously elected candidates in Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency (MPTC) and Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency (ZPTC) elections in the state have been set aside by the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday. The High Court has also directed the APSEC to declare all those candidates who have been elected unanimously as winners immediately.
The High Court was hearing a batch of petitions filed in February challenging the order issued by the APSEC. The order for an enquiry, based on complaints made by political parties, alleged that intending contestants were being prevented from filing nominations and being forced to withdraw nominations in the MPTC and ZPTC elections. The APSEC had directed district election authorities to carry out enquiries into complaints received.
The petitioners against the APSEC order argued that the commission had no jurisdiction to conduct such enquiries. The petitioners had argued that any election-related grievances with regard to the election process had to be raised at the election tribunal and that the APSEC cannot act as a ‘super tribunal’.
The MPTC and ZPTC elections were supposed to be held in March 2020 but were postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The move by the APSEC had irked the ruling YSRCP, who had insisted on the polls.
In a 657-page counter, the SEC told the court that it had the powers to order an enquiry under article 243k of the Indian Constitution, which lays down rules for elections to the panchayats and other local bodies. The SEC had reasoned that the order did not intend to take away the right of the unanimously elected candidate but rather to verify the allegations made by the complainant.
The SEC told the court that 126 ZPTCs and 1,363 MPTCs were elected unanimously during the election process as there were no opposing candidates. The SEC told the court that the inquiry was launched as the number of unanimous results was higher, when compared to previous years.
The move had also come amid escalating tensions between Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and State Election Commissioner Ramesh Kumar.