Sacking by subterfuge-THE HINDU-14-04-2020
Removal of A.P The legality of the removal of the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner is seriously in doubt. That it was the culmination of an open conflict between the Election Commissioner, N. The State government got the Governor to issue an ordinance to cut the SEC’s tenure from five to three years, and amend the criterion for holding that office from being an officer of the rank of Principal Secretary and above to one who had served as a High Court judge. The State government approached the Supreme Court, but the court declined to interfere. Having exhausted its legal remedy, the government should have waited for the ongoing fight against the disease to be over.
If courts uphold this means of dislodging the head of an independent election body, it would mark the end of free and fair elections. The State government seems to have gone by legal opinion that cited Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. in which the Allahabad High Court ruled that cessation of tenure does not amount to removal, and upheld the State Election Commissioner’s term being cut short. The judgment seems erroneous, as it gives a carte blanche to the State government to remove an inconvenient election authority by merely changing the tenure or retirement age.
This was surely not what was envisioned by Parliament, which wrote into the Constitution provisions to safeguard the independence of the State Election Commission. Even if the State government argues that a change of tenure does not amount to varying the conditions of service, the new norm can only apply to the successor SEC, and not the one holding the office now.