Chandigarh mayor polls: Supreme Court to examine ballot papers, video today | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Chandigarh mayor polls: Supreme Court to examine ballot papers, video-recording today

Feb 20, 2024 10:11 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Monday posed searching questions to Returning Officer Anil Masih, who controversially declared eight votes invalid.

The Supreme Court is set to examine the ballot papers that were invalidated by Returning Officer Anil Masih who conducted the Chandigarh mayoral polls. The apex court will also peruse the video recording of the counting day, which has been marred with controversy after the returning officer was purportedly seen marking some ballot papers, to which he admitted before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud on Monday.

The Supreme Court has directed Returning Officer Anil Masih to remain present on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court has directed Returning Officer Anil Masih to remain present on Tuesday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the controversial Chandigarh mayoral polls on January 30. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Kuldeep Kumar was expected to clinch the mayoral seat with support from the Congress party but Manoj Sonkar of the BJP emerged victorious after polling 16 votes against his rival's 12. Eight votes were declared invalid.

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The AAP and Congress boycotted the subsequent election for the deputy mayor and senior deputy mayor, which BJP eventually won.

Kumar challenged the election results in the Supreme Court alleging poll rigging and submitted the video of the electoral proceedings. After watching the video, the court said, prima facie, the returning officer was defacing the ballot papers and asked him to appear on February 19.

A day before the hearing, Sonkar resigned as Chandigarh mayor and three AAP councillors joined the BJP.

What happened in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court directed the ballots cast during the controversial Chandigarh mayoral elections last month to be produced before it on Tuesday.

"This is a very serious matter.... In case of any falsehood, you will be prosecuted," the bench, also comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, told Masih.

"Why were you looking into the camera and putting the 'X' mark on the ballot papers?" the CJI asked.

Masih defended himself, saying he only was marking out defaced ballots.

The returning officer said, "There were so many cameras that I was just looking at those."

The bench asked, "You can sign the ballot papers, but why were you putting 'X' on those ballot papers?"

"It means, you marked it," the CJI said, adding that Masih has to be prosecuted and this cannot be allowed in an electoral democracy.

CJI Chandrachud also said that the court may consider declaring the results based on votes already cast instead of ordering fresh elections.

“We also read newspapers. We are deeply concerned about the horse-trading which is taking place,” said the bench, referring to the defection by AAP councillors before the hearing.

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