The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday struck down the orders of State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar''s orders barring Panchayat Raj Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy from speaking to the media till February 21, as unconstitutional.
It may be recalled that the single bench of the AP High Court on Sunday struck down the orders of SEC to Director General of Police Gautam Sawang to confine Panchayat Raj Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy to his residence till the end of AP Panchayat Elections ( February 21).
The Panchayat Raj Minister had earlier filed a house motion petition challenging the SEC orders in the High Court, which came up for hearing before Justice DVSS Somayajulu.
After hearing both sides, Justice Somayajulu said he would only stick to the remarks made by the Minister during his press meet. But confining a person amounts to curtailing his freedom and the SEC does not have the power to place a person under house arrest hence it was not valid. But in his observations the Judge refused to lift the restriction orders over addressing the media.
Minister Peddireddy again requested the bench headed by Chief Justice of the High Court Justice AK Goswami to intervene in the single judge orders. In his petition, he stated that restraining him from speaking to the media is a denial of the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution to which the Bench struck down these orders as well.
Earlier Senior advocate CV Mohan Reddy appeared before the bench headed by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Chagari Praveen Kumar on behalf of the Minister. He said the Election Commissioner had ordered the suspension of unanimous elections in Chittoor and Guntur districts against the Election rules. Adding further the advocate questioned as to how the act of the Minister who told the Returning Officers to abide by the rules, would mount to interfere with the election process. As a minister, he said that it was a constitutional right to take government schemes to the people and that orders of the single judge orders as against this.
Although it was clear that he would not speak personally about the election commissioner, the single judge ordered to not address the media. Hearing the arguments of B. Adinarayana Rao on behalf of the Election Commission, questioned the extent to which the minister was threatening the returning officers who were performing their constitutional duties. The court heard the arguments and said it would issue orders on Wednesday. Finding fault with the SEC that he had erred in issuing sanctions against the Panchayat Raj Minister to not address the media, the High Court set aside the SEC orders.
Panchayat polls in the state of AP which have commenced on February 9 and will go on till February 21 in four phases.