New Delhi, January 25: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that it will not interfere in the decision of the Andhra Pradesh State Election commission (APSEC) to conduct gram panchayat polls in February. The Supreme Court was hearing a plea by the YSRCP government challenging an Andhra Pradesh High Court order allowing the gram panchayat polls to be held in the state. 

Andhra Pradesh had sought the halting of polls due to the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive. After the poll schedule was released by the APSEC on January 11, a single bench judge ruled in favour of the state government, halting the election process. However, on January 21, the same High Court set aside the stay order. Following which the Andhra Pradesh government approached the Supreme Court. 

The bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy dismissed their plea to halt the polls, The News Minute reported. 

Bar and Bench reported Justice Sanjay Kirshen Kaul as saying that: “Ego problem between two authorities is leading to lawlessness. We cannot allow lawlessness. How can resolutions be passed against the N Ramesh Kumar? (referring to the resolution passed by the employee federation) Elections have been held in far more difficult conditions and successfully,”

Both the Andhra Pradesh government led by Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and the office of the SEC have been at loggerheads since March last year over the deferment of gram panchayat polls in the state. On Sunday the SEC even wrote to the AP Director General of Police (DGP) informing him about threats to his life over statements made by the chairman of the employee federation.

The court found the resolution made against the State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar, by the Andhra Pradesh government employees federation as “atrocious and undesirable”. The employee federation had come out in protest against the SEC decision to hold the polls and was an intervener in the plea filed by the Andhra Pradesh government. 

Justice Hrishikesh pointed out that the single judge order on January 11 does not give any reasons for halting the election process. The judges questioned the manner in which the Andhra Pradesh government filed their appeal.

The Justice has been quoted as saying, “We cannot be part of this ego battle. We cannot take over jobs of everyone. There are some political and administrative decisions. Some decisions will be taken by the Election Commission. This makes me feel this is not the issue, it is something else,”

The Andhra Pradesh government had contended that holding polls while a pandemic is ongoing will lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases. To which Justice Kaul said that states have conducted elections during COVID-19 while referring to Kerala, “Even Kerala did and there is a spike now but we can’t say polls were the reason.”

The Supreme Court referring to the employee federation said their behaviour was atrocious and undesirable, “Some of the interventions were completely uncalled for and no business to delve into this issue,” 

The Supreme Court bench said it will not interfere in the decision of the State Election Commissioner to hold the elections and dismissed the matter.

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