AP HC suspends gram panchayat poll schedule of SEC

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(Eds: adding details) Amaravati, Jan 11 (PTI) 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 SEC immediately filed an appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court against the single judges order.

Advocate N Ashwini Kumar, representing the SEC, requested that the appeal be taken up as an emergency since the court would be on Sankranti vacation till January 17.

He contended that the single judges order was in contradiction to the Supreme Court guidelines.

Earlier in the evening, Justice M Ganga Rao issued an order 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.

Advocate General Sriram Subramaniam told the court that conduct of gram panchayat elections simultaneous to the coronavirus vaccination programme would be difficult.

'The SEC has not objectively considered the view of the government and has approached the subject matter in its own domain,' the judge 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. PTI DBV VS APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR