State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar had ordered the transfers based on complaints of alleged inaction in incidents of violence preceding the local body polls.

The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday issued transfer orders for the District Collectors of Guntur and Chittoor and the Superintendent of Police (SP), Tirupati Urban. In March 2020, the State Election Commission (SEC) had ordered the transfer of these officials, following complaints of irregularities and violence in the process of conducting elections to rural and urban local bodies, before they were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Guntur Collector and District Magistrate Samuel Anand Kumar, Chittoor Collector and District Magistrate Narayana Bharath Gupta, and A Ramesh Reddy, Tirupati Urban SP, have been directed to report before the General Administration Department (GAD). Guntur Joint Collector Dinesh Kumar, Chittoor Joint Collector D Markandeyulu, and Chittoor SP S Senthil Kumar have been placed in full additional charge of the respective posts until further orders. The transfer orders were issued on Friday by Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das. 

Last year, before the local body polls in the state were postponed, opposition parties had filed several complaints with the SEC, alleging that certain officials had displayed bias in their actions concerning violent incidents preceding the election in several districts. They alleged that YSRCP workers and supporters had attacked candidates from opposition parties in multiple locations, and that these candidates were denied the opportunity to file their nominations for the local body elections.

Based on these complaints, the SEC had ordered the transfer of the Collectors of Guntur and Chittoor districts and SPs of Guntur Rural and Tirupati Urban, apart from a few other police officers. 

Meanwhile, the SEC has also censured two top officials with the Panchayath Raj Department, for allegedly disenfranchising new voters through “wilful and deliberate acts of omission”. According to the SEC, back in November 2020, the Panchayath Raj Commissioner was directed to instruct all District Panchayath Officers (DPOs) to undertake a revision of electoral rolls, in order to conduct the gram panchayat elections. 

As per the directions, the electoral rolls for the February elections were supposed to be published by January 25, but apart from Visakhapatnam, none of the other districts had completed the exercise, according to the SEC. 

Censure orders were issued against Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi, and Commissioner M Girija Shankar. The censure order will go into the service record of both the officials. 

According to the Central Civil Service Rules, 1965 an “order of Censure is a formal and public act intended to convey that the person concerned has been guilty of some blameworthy act or omission for which it has been found necessary to award him a formal punishment.” The censure order will impact the officers’ assessment of merit or suitability for promotion to higher posts.

Earlier this month, the SEC had also suspended its Joint Director GV Sai Prasad for breach of code of conduct. Ramesh Kumar also surrendered senior IAS officer and Secretary to the SEC, Vani Mohan, to the state government. In a recent letter to Ramesh Kumar, Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das took objection to the removal of these two officials. 

The Chief Secretary said that the state government has posted certain officials to the State Election Commission, “despite the fact that some of the officers have been removed by the SEC without following any due procedure.” Das wrote that the observations of the SEC that the senior officers made reprehensible comments is misplaced, “as the government has the  highest regard towards the State Election Commission.”

Das said that the state government is “considering follow up action on the arbitrary action taken by SEC against its staff.”

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