Chandigarh Mayor Polls: Prosecute Masih for Interfering with Election Process, Remarks SC

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Chandigarh Mayor Polls: Prosecute Masih for Interfering with Election Process, Remarks SC

|Chandigarh | Updated: February 19, 2024 20:31

Masih Asked to Produce the Defaced Ballot Papers Tomorrow at The Apex Court

The Apex court here on Monday remarked that the controversial returning officer in Chandigarh Mayor Elections, Anil Masih must be prosecuted for interfering with the election process. Masih meanwhile has admitted that he defaced the ballots.

Anil Masih

Masih was captured on camera defacing the ballots. He reportedly defaced eight ballot papers last month. Anil is reportedly a member of the BJP’s minority cell and he defaced the ballot papers from AAP councillors before entering them into the record. He was obviously trying to help his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. This erupted into a major politico legal fight between the AAP and BJP. Masih has been asked to produce the defaced ballot papers at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 20 at 10.30 am by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud.

Manoj Sonkar (BJP)

 The court said “no fresh poll” will be required. The SC appears confident to resolve the  dispute over the outcome of the election, which saw the Bhartiya Janata Party’s Manoj Sonkar elected as Mayor with a four-vote margin after eight ballots by Aam Aadmi Party councillors were declared “invalid”. Masih did this to ensure BJP victory.

“What we propose to do is this… we will direct the Deputy Commissioner to appoint a fresh Returning Officer, one who is not aligned to any political party. The process shall be taken to the logical conclusion from the stage it stopped before the declaration of results,” the Chief Justice said.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud

“Let the results be declared disregarding any mark put by the (original) Returning Officer (Anil Masih). Let the process be overseen judicially by the (Punjab and Haryana) High Court,” the CJI added.

Tushar Mehta (Solicitor General)

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Chandigarh administration, said, “I am told some are torn or defaced. Let the High Court see…”, but the Supreme Court was unconvinced.

Kuldeep Kumar (AAP Mayoral Candidate)

The petitioner, the AAP’s unsuccessful mayoral candidate, Kuldeep Kumar, pointed out that only eight ballot papers had to be studied, and added, “They are not torn.”

“We will ask the Registrar General of the High Court (which had been instructed by the Supreme Court to gather and preserve all records) to nominate any officer who shall be present tomorrow with the ballot papers… we will see the ballot papers for ourselves,” the Chief Justice insisted.

The court’s attempt to settle this matter has been seen by many as a possible blow to the BJP, which would have been in a strong position had a re-election been ordered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was well short of a majority in the January 31 poll, but the poaching of three AAP lawmakers – Poonam Devi, Neha, and Gurcharan Kala – has given them the definite upper hand.

In the 35-member Municipal Corporation, the BJP now has 17 votes. Add a Akali Dal councillor, and the Chandigarh Lok Sabha MP – who has voting rights as an ex-officio member – it has 19.

After three defections, the AAP has 10, and its ally, the Congress, has only seven.

A fresh election will see the BJP at a narrow but crucial advantage.

The three ex-AAP members’ switch to the BJP had also sparked fresh buzz about  ‘horse-trading’.

“The scare was that this will lead to horse-trading… that has happened now,” the petitioner said, to which the Chief Justice acknowledged the seriousness of the allegation.

Meanwhile, the court also made strong observations about Mr Masih’s role in this controversy, after calling his actions a “mockery of democracy” in an earlier hearing.

The controversy broke after a video showed Mr Masih – at the time a member of the BJP’s Minority Cell – writing on eight ballot papers – from AAP councillors – before entering them into record.

Abhishek Singhvi (Senior Advocate)

By doing so, the AAP argued then and senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi in court today, that he had invalidated votes in an election the party was widely expected to win comfortably.

The BJP has denied these allegations.

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