Chandigarh Mayor election: The drama and the Supreme Court’s rebuke for returning officer | Recap

  • Chandigarh Mayor election: A look at the events that took place and why the Supreme Court bench expressed concern over the ‘horse trading’ and slammed Anil Masih, the Returning Officer for the Chandigarh Municipal polls

Livemint
First Published19 Feb 2024
The Supreme Court of India (File)
The Supreme Court of India (File)

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered that the ballot papers and video that have been taken into custody by the Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court according to its order, be produced before the apex court on February 20 at 2 pm.

The bench expressed concern over the "horse trading" and slammed Anil Masih, the Returning Officer for the Chandigarh Municipal polls, saying he must be prosecuted for "defacing ballot papers".

During the hearing today, the bench asked Masih why he had made marks (ticks and x marks) on the ballot papers he was tasked to count.

Also Read: Supreme Court says no fresh elections. What happens next in Chandigarh mayoral polls?

"This is a very serious matter. All that you say... if any falsehood you will be prosecuted... Why were you looking into the camera and putting marks in the ballot papers?" asked CJI Chandrachud.

He added that he had made the marks on eight ballot papers, only to set them apart.

"That means you marked it. He has to be prosecuted. In an electoral democracy, this cannot be allowed," the bench said.

"We are deeply concerned about the horse-trading which is taking place...," the bench said at the end of the hearing.

The apex court was hearing a plea of AAP's councillor Kuldeep Dhalor after the BJP won the mayoral election following the Returning Officer's move of scrapping eight opposition votes.

What happened so far:

AAP, Congress seal alliance for Chandigarh mayoral polls

The AAP and the Congress have arrived at an understanding on contesting the Chandigarh mayoral polls in an alliance in January.

Under the arrangement, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was to fight for the mayor's seat while the Congress was to contest the posts of senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor.

The number game

In the 35-member Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, the BJP has 14 councillors. The party also has an ex-officio member MP who has voting rights.

The AAP has 13 councillors and the Congress seven. The Shiromani Akali Dal has one councillor in the House.

It is BJP vs Cong-AAP

The mayoral polls assumed significance as the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party -- both INDIA bloc members -- “have joined hands to contest the elections to oust the BJP from the chair of mayor which it has been winning for the last eight years.

'Unjustified, arbitrary': HC quashes order deferring Chandigarh mayor polls; election held on January 30

The Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the Chandigarh mayoral polls be held on January 30, quashing the administration's "unreasonable, unjustified and arbitrary" decision to postpone the election.

BJP's Manoj Sonkar beats AAP-Cong candidate to win post of Chandigarh mayor

BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar on Tuesday defeated AAP's Kuldeep Kumar, who was fielded as part of an alliance with the Congress, to win the post of mayor in the Chandigarh mayoral polls.

Sonkar polled 16 votes while Kumar secured 12. Eight votes were declared invalid.

BJP sweeps Chandigarh mayoral polls; opposition allies AAP, Congress cry foul

BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar defeated the AAP's Kuldeep Kumar for the mayor’s post, polling 16 votes against the 12 won by his rival. Eight votes were declared invalid.

BJP nominees Kuljit Sandhu and Rajinder Sharma were declared elected to the posts of senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor, respectively.

Opposition councilors alleged there was tampering with the ballot papers at the elections, a charge rubbished by the BJP. On social media, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal expressed “serious concern” over the “cheating” in “broad daylight”.

SC appalled by 'defacing' of ballots, orders preservation of video of proceedings

ppalled by the alleged defacing of ballot papers in the Chandigarh mayoral polls, the Supreme Court on Monday said this is a mockery of democracy and ordered that the ballots and the video of the electoral proceedings be preserved.

Taking note of a plea of an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor alleging wrongdoing in the polls, the court issued notices to the Chandigarh authorities, including the civic body.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra expressed annoyance after watching the video of the electoral proceedings and said that, prima facie, the returning officer was “defacing” the ballot papers.

"Murder of democracy", prosecute Returning Officer, says SC on Chandigarh mayoral polls

The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Returning Officer who conducted the recent Chandigarh mayoral polls, observing it is obvious he defaced the ballot papers and that he should be prosecuted, adding his action amounted to "murder” and “mockery" of democracy.

An “appalled” Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, who headed a three-judge Division bench, said it will not allow democracy to be murdered like this and that the apex court will order fresh elections if not satisfied with the purity of the poll process.

Chandigarh mayor resigns, three AAP councillors join BJP

BJP leader Manoj Sonkar resigned as Chandigarh mayor and three AAP councillors joined the saffron party on Sunday, a day before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a plea alleging irregularities in the recently held mayoral polls.

Sonkar has submitted his resignation to the municipal commissioner, said Chandigarh BJP president Jatinder Pal Malhotra.

The Congress and the AAP do not have an alliance and are only befooling the public. They will be exposed before the public, Malhotra told PTI.

Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Arun Sood said three AAP councillors -- Neha, Poonam and Gurcharan Kala -- joined the BJP in the presence of senior party leader Vinod Tawde.

*With Agency Inputs

 

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