HC refuses to stall transfer of 2 IPS officers, Naidu dubs EC order as "hasty, biased"
Amaravati, Mar 29: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday refused to stall the Election Commission of India's order, transferring two IPS officers, including the Director General of Intelligence and a non-cadre officer in the state government, and keeping them away from election duties.
The Chandrababu Naidu government was keen on retaining the controversial DG, Intelligence, A B Venkateswara Rao, whom the opposition YSR Congress has been accusing of "working like a TDP cadre".
A division bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Praveen Kumar and Justice Satyanarayana Murthy, ruled that there was 'no case for interim relief' in the matter and said the state government should comply with the EC order. It rejected the government's contentions on the issue, particularly that the DG had nothing to do with the conduct of elections and that the EC had no jurisdiction over him.
The EC had late on Tuesday night issued an order to Chief Secretary Anil Chandra Punetha, directing that the DG, Intelligence, and Superintendents of Police of Kadapa and Srikakulam districts be transferred forthwith and attached to the state police headquarters. It said no election-related work should be assigned to the three officers till the completion of the polls.
Around midnight on Tuesday, Punetha issued an order transferring the three officers in line with the directive. The scene, however, changed on Wednesday as the Chief Secretary issued a fresh order that afternoon, cancelling his earlier one and retained the Intelligence DG to the same post while shifting the two SPs. The EC subsequently appointed Grewal Navdeep Singh and Abhishek Mohanty as SPs of Srikakulam and Kadapa districts.
The chief secretary also got a writ petition filed in the High Court, challenging the ECI order even as Chief Minister Naidu shot off a seven-page letter to the poll panel, protesting the transfers, particularly that of the DG, Intelligence.
Naidu alleged that the election commission's action was 'prima facie hasty, biased, undemocratic and suffers from the principles of natural justice".
He claimed the EC's conduct has become "questionable" due to this "coloured decision", which is deliberately aimed at benefitting the YSR Congress "under the influence of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, aided by (Telangana Chief Minister) K Chandrasekhar Rao". The government issued a separate order on Wednesday, designating certain police officers from the DGP to the rank of a constable for law and order duties in connection with the April 11 elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assembly. The DG of Intelligence has been kept away from election duties.
"The ECI cannot engage in unchecked, arbitrary and uncanalised exercise of power. The ECI order suffers from the vice of lack of jurisdiction, suffers from being a colourable exercise of power and is based on alien purposes or oblique motives which have nothing to do with the conduct of polling duties," state Political Secretary (General Administration Department) N Srikant said in the petition, filed on behalf of the chief secretary.
The High Court heard arguments in the case on Thursday. The YSR Congress also impleaded in the case. Advocate General D Srinivas contented that the ECI has no jurisdiction to transfer an officer not under its purview. Former AG Prakash Reddy, counsel for the ECI, pointed out that the Intelligence DG was very much on election-related duties under Section 28-A of the Representation of People Act and that the state government issued an order in this regard.
The AG claimed the said government order was issued erroneously. "How could the police department function without the intelligence wing?" the ECI advocate countered. The High Court delivered its verdict on the petition on Friday, refusing to grant any relief to the state government.