Home NEWSCURRENT UPDATE Amid Tampering Row, Top Court To See Chandigarh Mayoral Poll Ballot Papers Today

Amid Tampering Row, Top Court To See Chandigarh Mayoral Poll Ballot Papers Today

by Web Desk
Amid Tampering Row, Top Court To See Chandigarh Poll Ballot Papers

The Supreme Court is going to examine the ballot papers of the Chandigarh mayoral poll and video recording of the counting process amid concerns over “horse-trading” and the contentious victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP’s Manoj Sonkar won the election with 16 votes defeating the Aam Aadmi Party-Congress alliance candidate Kuldeep Kumar who secured 12 votes. However, a major controversy erupted when the returning officer, Anil Masih, declared eight votes from the coalition partners as invalid. This immediately sparked off accusations of ballot tampering. A video that went viral showed Mr Masih – who is a member of the BJP’s minority cell – marking on ballots cast for AAP councilors.

During a February 5 hearing, the Supreme Court denounced and condemned his actions as a blatant “mockery of democracy.”

A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud along with Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, expressed deep concern over the alleged “horse-trading”. It has been decided to examine the ballot papers and video recording of the counting process once again. Rather than immediately ordering fresh polls, the court suggested considering the declaration of results based on the votes already cast.

The court also summoned the registrar general of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to present the records in New Delhi today.

‘This Is A Serious Matter’

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Chandigarh administration, proposed the idea of holding a fresh election under the supervision of a judicial officer appointed by the High Court.

However, the bench, after deliberation, leaned towards completing the electoral process from the stage before the declaration of results. The court suggested nominating a judicial officer to oversee the counting of the ballot papers and disregarding any defacement by the returning officer.

The the focus turned to Anil Masih accused of defacing the ballot papers. The Chief Justice himself cross-examined the returning officer openly expressing displeasure over the way the election was conducted. This was the first time this was conducted in independent India. The court sternly warned Anil Masih about the potential prosecution for his actions calling it a serious violation of the democratic process.

“Mr Masih, I am asking you questions. If you don’t give truthful answers, you will be prosecuted. This is a serious matter. We have seen the video. What were you doing looking at the camera and putting cross marks on the ballot papers? Why were you putting the marks?” Chief Justice Chandrachud asked the official directly.

The AAP’s defeated mayoral candidate, Kuldeep Kumar had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s refusal to grant interim relief for a fresh poll. The Supreme Court then criticized the High Court as well for not passing any interim order.

New Returning Officer Appointed

Mr Masih, by way of admission, tried to explain that the marks were intended to segregate defaced ballot papers. “Why did you deface the ballot papers? You only had to sign the papers. Where is it provided in the rules that you can put other marks on the ballot papers?” asked Chief Justice Chandrachud.

Solicitor General Mehta also found himself caught in the crossfire as the Chief Justice asserted, “Mr Solicitor, he (Mr Masih) has to be prosecuted. He is interfering with the election process.”

“What we propose to do is this. We will direct the Deputy Commissioner to appoint a fresh returning officer, who is not aligned to any political party,” declared Chief Justice Chandrachud.

Solicitor General Mehta, drawing attention to allegedly torn or defaced ballot papers, sought the court’s intervention. However, Kuldeep Kumar’s lawyer contested this claiming that only eight ballot papers required examination and were not torn. The Supreme Court then resolved to examine the contested papers today, demanding their presentation with adequate security.

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