VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday issued interim stay on the State Election Commission (SEC) directions to the collectors and district election authorities to revive the candidature of affected aspirants for MPTC and ZPTC elections, based on their credible averments of forced withdrawal from the contest under duress.
Hearing a batch of petitions filed challenging the SEC’s directions, Justice DVSS Somayajulu directed the SEC not to conduct any sort of inquiry into the candidates declared elected unanimously after issuing Form-10 during MPTC and ZPTC elections last March. The election process was stopped midway at the withdrawal of nominations stage due to Covid-19. He directed the SEC not to issue any orders in MPTC and ZPTC seats where the inquiry was conducted stating that Form 10 was not issued, till February 23, and adjourned the case hearing to February 22.
Challenging the SEC order issued on February 18 and its directions to the district collectors to submit reports on forced withdrawals, A Bhaskar Reddy and D Nanjundappa who were declared elected unopposed as Singirgunta and Aridigunta MPTC members in Punganur mandal of Chittoor district, and AT Ratnasekhar, who was declared elected unanimously as Piler MPTC after they were issued Form 10, filed petitions in the High Court.
Issuing interim stay order after the arguments, Justice Somayajulu said the SEC cannot interfere after the candidate was declared elected. The result could only be contested in the election tribunal, he said and opined that the SEC has no scope to interfere in the name of conducting free and fair polls based on a few complaints.
Appearing on behalf of the petitioners, advocates CV Mohan Reddy, VRN Prashant and SRV Chandrasekhar said the election process for MPTCs and ZPTCs commenced on March 9, 2020 and March 14 was the last day for withdrawal. “Our clients were given Form 10 and declared elected unanimously. Now, stating that it has received complaints from political parties of forced withdrawals, the SEC directed the district collector to submit a report. Such an order should be declared illegal,” Mohan Reddy urged.
The petitioners’ counsel said as per Article 243 of the Constitution, in case only a single person files nomination for an election, he should be issued Form 10 and later Form 29 after being declared unopposed. “Claiming that the State government is not cooperating, the SEC cannot do as it likes. Genuineness of the election result can only be questioned in the election tribunal and the SEC cannot decide on the same,” he argued.
Appearing for the SEC, N Ashwini Kumar said the SEC has only sought a report from the district collector and assuming that something is happening, the petitioners had approached the court. He said in case the SEC intervened after receiving the report, the same can be questioned. The SEC is only using the powers entrusted under Article 243 of the Constitution, he said.
Following the arguments, the Judge questioned how can the SEC conduct an inquiry after the result was declared. He also questioned the haste in issuing orders on February 18 and seeking a report by February 20. He emphasised the need for an in-depth hearing in the case. When the counsel for the SEC sought adjournment till February 22, so complete details will be submitted to the court, the judge issued the interim stay order and adjourned the hearing.
‘SEC cannot contest poll result now’
Justice DVSS Somayajulu said the SEC cannot interfere after the candidate was declared elected. The poll result could only be contested in the election tribunal, the HC Judge said