VIJAYAWADA: IAS officer Nilam Sawhney was appointed as the State Election Commissioner (SEC) in accordance with the rules and regulations, the State government submitted before the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Advocate General (AG) S Sriram told the court that while suggesting three names to the post, the Chief Minister’s letter to the Governor had indicated the litigation over the appointments and the special leave petition pending before the Supreme Court.
The submission was made during the hearing of a quo warranto petition by a Single Judge Bench of Justice B Devanand. The petition, by R Maheshwar Rao, an advocate from Vizianagaram, has challenged the appointment. The AG further argued that Sawhney’s neutrality cannot be questioned only on the ground that she had been an advisor to the Chief Minister.
The Governor had not limited his consideration to the short-listed officers, but applied an objective parameter to consider all the 11 officers. Sriram said all constitutional appointments, and appointments to neutral offices, were made considering the suitability of the officer. The neutrality and performance of an independent officer could be determined only after making the appointment.
Responding to a query on why only IAS officers were considered to the post of State Election Commissioner, and not others, the Advocate General said the Chief Minister had consulted him before recommending the names to the Governor.
The post of the SEC has been an administrative matter within the Constitutional framework. In addition to past appointments, the method currently being followed by other states was also examined. “I have suggested that it is not illegal to consider former IAS officers,” the Advocate General said.
Sriram argued that any specific disability or lack of eligibility has not been pointed out in the case of the present SEC. It would be untenable for the petitioner to challenge the appointment based on an assumed lack of neutrality.
He further submitted that it was the Chief Minister’s discretion to appoint suitable advisors, whose advices would be considered during the policy-making process. “It does not contradict any of the provisions of the Constitution or any legislation.
On the role of advisors, the court was informed that it cannot be assumed that past advisors had not been addressing the media. The State’s present challenges and circumstances cannot be judged based on any past situation and therefore no advisor could be considered unnecessary, or a burden on the exchequer.
The court would hear the arguments of senior advocate CV Mohan Reddy, appearing for the Governor, on July 28.
Canal bund residents were given two weeks to evacuate
The HC on Friday directed people living on canal bund of Andhra Ratna Canal in Amara Reddy Nagar in Tadepalli mandal of Guntur district to look for alternative accommodation. Hearing the petitions filed by one K Naresh and V Rajyalakshmi seeking the court’s intervention for preventing authorities from dismantling their houses on the bund in Amara Reddy Nagar, Justice D Ramesh directed the authorities not to initiate any action against them till two weeks. Appearing on behalf the government, Special Government Pleader Chintala Suman said the government paid compensation to the residents and even prepared TIDCO houses as alternative accommodation for them.
Centre gets extension to file counter in VSP case
Giving some more time to the Central government to file a detailed counter in the petition filed against privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, the HC on Friday asked the Centre to file it before the next hearing in the case. Stating that delay in such matters is not proper, the Court adjourned the case hearing to August 2. A division bench comprising Justice AK Goswami and Justice N Jayasurya continued hearing in a PIL filed by retired IPS officer V Venkata Lakshminarayana challenging the Central government’s decision to privatise Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.